Thursday, January 10, 2008

New year, new gym controversy

Well this controversy is actually old(er). It began last year* in Rochester, Minnesota when a lesbian couple sued their athletic club (scroll down a bit to see the news blurb; slightly longer story here) because it would not give them the family rate on their membership. A judge dismissed their civil lawsuit which cited sexual orientation discrimination and the couple is now appealing, asking that the lawsuit be reinstated.
According to the club rules, no one can get the family membership unless they are legally married.
And here we see what seems to be the theme of the week: it's not us (health club, IOC) who are discriminating; it's just the rules.
Of course no lesbians, except those in Massachusetts, can get married. The health club doesn't seem to care.
This whole story is a bit surprising to me. Every health club I have belonged to has extended their family or couples rate to my partner and me--even when I lived in Iowa! And I always thought Minnesota was more liberal than Iowa (maybe that's just because I see so many women ice hockey players come from Minnesota and I associate liberalness with women's ice hockey).
The rate difference is usually not that large which is probably why, more than anything, clubs offer it to non-married couples. The cost-benefit analysis clearly reveals that offering a slight discount outweighs the negative ramifications of being deemed a business that discriminates.
This means the Rochester Athletic Club has a strong intent. It can change its own policy. It can make accommodations. It chooses not to. It chooses to hide behind their (not so neutral) "rules."

* Actually, according to this statement made by the couple after the judge dismissed their case in November, they began their fight in 2006.


Diane said...

I got over my delusions about Minnesota when they elected Ventura governor. The state has since taken a more significant turn to the right.

ken said...

Oh yes, I forget that former pro wrestler beats out thousands of hockey-playing girls and women in assessing political climate.