On Thursday night, the voted 3-2 against a motion raised by chairman Tim Gorbach to change the “w/spouse” rates.
If the motion had passed, the current "w/spouse" rate would have changed to a "w/partner" rate, opening the memberships up to "two persons that are legally married, or are domestic partners, or are in a civil union as recognized by any U.S. jurisdiciton," said Gorbach.
Under the current rate policy, the Nat only allows married men and women who are recognized by the Ohio Constitution to receive discounted memberships.
The second part of his motion called for a “head of household” rate structure to take effect by June 1 of this year, meaning that rates would be set solely on the number of people who reside in any given Cuyahoga Falls household.
“Maybe we need to look at our rates that have been in place for 50 years and maybe change with the times a little bit," he said. “I was hoping we could (recognize non-traditional families), but that didn’t happen.”
According to Cuyahoga Falls Ward 5 City Councilwoman Diana Colavecchio, the council will now engage in a potential two-step process to either keep the rate structure as is, or change it, she said during Thursday night’s meeting.
In the coming weeks, the council could choose to “usurp” the park board’s authority and create an ordinance to change the rate policy.
If the ordinance is approved, the next step is creating an ad hoc committee to analyze the current rate policy, various statistics and data and gleam information from neighboring gyms.
With that, the committee would write a recommendation on how to restructure the Nat’s rate policies, and the council would either approve or reject it.
Public, City Leader Reactions
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Broadman Baptist Church Pastor Chris McCombs publicly opposed the rate change, saying the community has “been sucked into a social agenda here.”
McCombs said the social institution of marriage is intended for procreation, creating a family and perpetuating the community. He said it’s an issue based on principle, and that the parks board should abide by the Ohio Constitution.
Following the meeting, Mayor Don Robart said gays are welcome to the gym and that the decision to change rates is more of a financial issue versus a moral one.
“The hit on the city if we opened it up to non-traditional families would be about $50,000,” he said. “Obviously, that’s got to be made up somewhere, so we’d have to raise the rates on everybody else. We know when we raise rates we lose patrons, so that’s the paramount issue.”
The matter of whether or not to change the rate structure was raised by when he and his husband, Coty May, were recently told by Natatorium staff that they were not eligible for the w/spouse discount.
The couple did not attend the meeting, but Shane May offered comments via email after the decision was made.
“I am appalled and ashamed of the three (park board members) who voted against the change, knowing that when given the opportunity to advance the community and show equal treatment towards all citizens, they chose to follow the path of Mayor Robart and oppose equality.
I hope that city council does what a progressive forward thinking city government should do," he wrote.
For many, this issue has come to be about sexuality, politics, equality, religion and/or abiding by traditional norms. Where do you stand and why? After you take the poll, please offer your tactful answer in the comments section below.