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Gay Rights Protest Aimed at Pressuring Mayor, City Officials

Over 200 callers are expected to flood City Hall's phone lines on Tuesday to protest the Natatorium's rule on prohibiting married, same-sex couples from acquiring family-rate memberships.

If you call on Tuesday, don’t be surprised if you get a busy signal.

Starting at 8 a.m., hundreds of protestors are expected to flood the phone lines of the Mayor’s office and request that Don Robart and the City Council reverse a decision which prohibits married gay couples from acquiring discounted gym memberships at the

According to a Facebook page created by Shane and Coty May, callers will be prompted to repeat the following scripted remarks and claims:

• All other gyms in the area welcome LGBT couples, and it’s an embarrassment to our city that the Natatorium, which is run by the city, does not.
• The Nat’s current policy treats same-sex couples as second-class citizens.
• Mayor Robart’s excuses for not changing the policy are unfounded and have been proven wrong by the ACLU and outside legal counsel.
• Nothing in Ohio state law prohibits the Nat from recognizing and welcoming same-sex couples at the family rate.

Kate Bigam, a former Natatorium employee, has helped to co-organize the call-in.

“(Shane and Coty) deserve the same rights as other married couples,” she said. “Decades from now when gay rights are more established, we’ll look back at instances like this, you know, with a sense of disbelief.”

As reported by the Akron Beacon Journal, the issue arose earlier this month when the Mays – who were legally wed in Washington D.C. three months ago – tried to buy a Natatorium family membership.

When they applied, they were rejected by the fitness center staff who said granting same-sex, family-rate memberships was against the rules.

In response, the Mays set up a petition on change.org and have gathered over 5,000 signatures, said Bigam. Every time the petition was signed, automated emails were sent to the inboxes of city officials who, in turn, blocked the messages due to the high volume.

Plans for the call-in were then set in motion, she said.

Robart and the City Council are in the process of discussing the matter with Law Director Paul Janis on how to proceed and on who should handle it.

Calls to Shane May, Mayor Don Robart and City Council president Mark Ihasz weren’t immediately returned on Monday afternoon regarding this story.

Cuyahoga Falls Patch wants to hear from our readers on this issue that has drawn both local and national attention. What sort of rights should same-sex couples be afforded? How would you handle the matter? (Given the controversial nature of this subject, please offer constructive and tactful comments).

Kristina D. January 31, 2012 at 01:40 PM
All families should be recognized and should be able to take advantage of the family rate. This is unfair and discriminatory to all families who are not "normal" by the Nat's standards. Other gyms in the area don't have a problem with it, so why does the Nat? It's time for the Mayor to step up and step into 2012 and change the policy.
Ben Gruagach January 31, 2012 at 02:54 PM
What sort of rights should same-sex couples be afforded? The same rights that every other citizen currently enjoys... the right to legal acknowledgement of their marriages regardless of their religion, race, or gender.
Jessica Anderson January 31, 2012 at 05:37 PM
You'll be hearing from me today, Mr Mayor. Change the policy. Also, as someone who has known Kate Bigam almost her entire life and as an avid reader of Kate's Suburban Sweetheart blog, I can assure you that never in her life and certainly not in the middle of a quote has Kate said 'you know'. Her mastery of the English language is far more eloquent than that. I encourage everyone reading this to sign the petition and call Mayor Robart's office today.
Dave January 31, 2012 at 05:55 PM
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Dave January 31, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I really don't care what the Nat decides to do as far as there policy but if you want it changed go after the state to do it. If you only knew the amount of people that try to get a family membership at nat and come up with every reason or lie to get it. Plus for an ex nat employee leading the protest she should know all the scams that people try to get away with a family membership. If there policy were to change you'd have to open it up for a whole lot more. I am not for or against but there are people out there trying to just make a name for them self and they really don't have anything to do with it. Just a FYI there are just as many phone calls coming in to support the nat as there are to not support the nat. Need to change it at State level. All companies have the right to make there own policies and stick to them, one change means a lot of changes.
Kate Bigam January 31, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Dave, a couple that's legally married has a marriage certificate - tough to make a scam out of that. You're incorrect to assume that those of us involved in this protest are not advocates & activists at the state & national level, too - but nothing in Ohio's state law would prohibit the Nat from recognizing same-sex couples in their family membership policies. You're right, all companies have the right to make their own policies. We simply hope that the Nat will change its current ones to better reflect the kind of open & welcoming place we expect our city to be.
Earl Elevant February 01, 2012 at 12:35 AM
If they let two boyfriends have the family rate, then what's to stop people in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship from demanding the same thing? If they want the married rate, they need to start at the state level and get it legalized there. Trying to demand that they be seen as being a legal relationship that isn't legally recognized is wrong. With that said, fight the fight, guys. But do it on the state level.
Ben Gruagach February 01, 2012 at 01:15 AM
This came up because the couple who were discriminated against are legally married yet the Natatorium chose to not respect that.
Adam C. Miller February 01, 2012 at 02:08 AM
I agree with Mr. Elevant. You/We gotta get the STATE law changed regardless! WE, the VOTERS of Ohio, passed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. My marriage will not be legalized until my fiance and I get our OHIO marriage license in May. Start at the State level and go from there. I'd be happy to help :)
Dave February 01, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Yes get it done at the State level, think it's funny how they point out the gyms that allow it but as the lesbian couple pointed out on the Nats facebook page there are more gyms in Ohio that don't allow it then there are ones that do. They have been turned away by numerous gyms. Not saying it is right cause I don't think it is but don't just point out the nat. Another funny thing is the people that are saying our city and they don't even live here.
Kate Bigam February 01, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Your ability to miss or ignore the point is truly impressive. And no, I don't live in Cuyahoga Falls at this time because my military boyfriend has been restationed. My bad. Don't I still get to call my hometown "my city"?
Adam C. Miller February 02, 2012 at 12:18 AM
I was denied a "spouse/family" pass today at the Nat because I am not legally married in the state of Ohio!!!!! It works both ways... who are they to tell me what a "family" is!?!?!?! ps I'm also a "disabled" Iraq war veteran. Does this mean they "HATE" our military? I think not. Next story.
Earl Elevant February 02, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Actually, Ben, unless I'm mistaken, they're not legally married in Ohio. To my knowledge they can't file married income taxes because Ohio doesn't recognize the marriage. Correct me if I'm wrong, though...
Ben Gruagach February 02, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Earl - does the Natatorium only grant family status to couples who present an Ohio marriage certificate? If they are not honouring the legal marriage certificates issued in other states, then they are in violation of the fourth article of the US constitution. (And the fourth article of the US constitution is going to be one of the big reasons why state amendments to ban same-sex marriage will also be overturned.)
Nancy J. February 02, 2012 at 06:33 PM
They currently won't even allow a single mother or father to use the family plan. I hope they lose multiple memberships over this issue.
Bill February 02, 2012 at 08:53 PM
They have a plan setup for single parents called Guardian + 1 child or 2 or 3.....
otto j piskac III February 03, 2012 at 01:25 AM
otto Either all people are to be treated equal or close it and cut our taxes down. All people are to be treated fairly.
Earl Elevant February 03, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Again, take it to the state--not the Natatorium. The courts, legislature, and/or people will decide this issue. Not the employee behind the counter at the Natatorium. Other states have laws that would be illegal if you committed the same act in Ohio and vice versa. Just because it's legal elsewhere doesn't mean you can stand behind it here as a legal principle. If they can produce a legal document in Ohio that says they're married, then it should work. At this time, they cannot do that--their marriage certificate is not a legal document here. Take it to the state. Period.
Kate Bigam February 03, 2012 at 03:47 PM
You're welcome to your opinion, but repeating "take it to the state" over & over isn't going to change anyone's mind. Many of us working on this issue ARE also working with Equality Ohio & other organizations to change Ohio's laws. That's not going to keep any of us from working at the city level, as well. This discrimination could be stopped, yet the mayor chooses not to - and that's worth fighting for.
Earl Elevant February 03, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Thanks Kate. It's good to know you're permitting me to have an opinion on this.
Jacob York February 03, 2012 at 08:58 PM
This is a good example as to why we should think about out with the old and in with the new. Mayor Robart has seen many years and should step down or re-evaluate his views and where he stands on old beliefs. Cuyahoga Falls has had a past with discrimination ever since I can remember, and now it's moving to focus that on gays. I'm no longer a resident of C. Falls, partially due to the way it is run.
Nancy J. February 03, 2012 at 10:41 PM
I second your opinion.

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