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March 23. 2012

Cuyahoga Falls park board won’t let gays have couple rate

But city council may do so

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio--Same-sex couples in this Akron suburb will not be able to avail themselves of the family rate at the city fitness center unless city council intervenes.

The Cuyahoga Falls Park and Recreation Board voted on March 9 against opening the spousal rate to couples in same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Many other area jurisdictions do include gay and lesbian married  couples in these rates, and fitness centers often have family rates that include same-sex partners.

Board chair Tim Gorbach put forward the proposal, noting that it would lose the city $48,000 in dues, but that the money could be recouped. The board voted 32 against it.

At the meeting, 18 members of Broadman Baptist Church attended, including their pastor, Chris McCombs, who advocated keeping the existing policy. He cited the 2004 state constitutional amendment barring the recognition of same-sex marriage.

However, despite being rejected by the board, the issue is not settled. City Council president pro tem Diana Colavecchio of Ward 5 attended the meeting and told the board that City Council could vote to rescind the board’s authority to set rates, and take the power themselves.

She said that, were council to do that, a committee would be appointed to investigate the matter and recommend whether or not the rate scheme should be changed.

Colavecchio noted after a January 17 city council meeting that the park board set the rates, in response to Council President Mark Ihasz saying that he would ask the law director to examine the issue.

Speaking to the Gay People’s Chronicle on March 20, Colavecchio could not yet say whether city council would assume the responsibility for determining the rate structure.

“The answer is, I don’t know,” she said. “We have been tossing around the idea of an ad hoc committee to do that.”

Before the council acts, however, they want to clear up what they view as ambiguity on the part of the park and recreation board. Some of the members, she feels, may be willing to support going to a household rate, “but they voted down their chairman’s proposal.”

Colavecchio said the superintendent will poll the members of the park and recreation board to see what is behind the ambiguity, and noted that city council was slated to have a work session with the Park and Rec board that evening.

“I expect we’ll have an answer by the end of the week” about whether city council will get more directly involved, she noted.

The issue came under a spotlight after Shane and Coty May were denied a family membership at the natatorium. Coty was injured while serving in Iraq, and Shane is his primary caregiver. Coty uses the pool for physical therapy, and the family rate would save them nearly $270 a year over the $500 per person individual memberships.

Thousands of people signed a petition created by the Mays, who were married in Washington, D.C. last year.

Medina, Akron and Twinsburg have city-run health facilities that allow same-sex couples to get family rates. Medina changed its “married couple” requirement to any two people in the same household, and Akron allows same-sex couples living together to do the same. Twinsburg Fitness Center allows domestic partners to obtain family memberships.

Related stories

Cuyahoga Falls denies family swim pass to couple  February 10, 2012




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