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Local YMCA adopts more inclusive household membership policy


Ben Felder June 4th, 2014

Oklahoma City’s chapter of the YMCA announced a policy shift last week that allows same-sex couples to sign up for family membership.

Group membership to the local YMCA is now open to same-sex couples and their children.

In fact, two adults of any sexual orientation living under the same roof are now eligible for a combined membership to the YMCA, along with any dependents through age 23.


“After many months of reviewing the current membership policy ... a recommendation was made to the ... board of directors that the current ‘family membership’ category be replaced with a new category, classified as ‘household membership,’” the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City announced in a statement last week. “The board approved the recommendation, which identifies a household membership as two adults and children through 23 years of age living in the same household. Under the new structure, additional adults living in the household may be added at an additional fee.”


The new policy will go into effect July 1.


The announcement follows media attention on same-sex couples who were denied family membership at a local YMCA. However, Brenda Bennett, VP of communications for the local YMCA, said the policy change was not in response to any particular incident but rather representative of the “changing landscape of households in Oklahoma.”


“For instance, my son, who is 20 years old, lives with me and we are a ‘household.’  One of my dear friends is the caregiver for her mother, and they live in the same household with two children, and that is their ‘household,’” Bennett said. “And, yes, there are same-gender households with and without children, and that is their ‘household.’”


Bennett said the YMCA prides itself on diversity and inclusion and does not discriminate against gay or lesbian couple or individuals.


“We have never discriminated against same-sex couples,” Bennett added. “They have always and will always be welcome at the Y.”


The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City is made up of 12 branches across the metro and has the ability to structure membership policies that are followed by all branches, Bennett said.


The change in policy received praise from local equality advocates who saw it as a step toward a more inclusive community.


“The Equality Network would like to applaud the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City for amending their membership policies to be inclusive of all Oklahoma City families,” Troy Stevenson, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of The Equality Network, said in a statement. “This is a great step toward a more fair and inclusive Oklahoma.”


Ryan Kiesel, executive director of ACLU of Oklahoma, remarked that the YMCA was an institution closely connected to inclusive practices.


“The YMCA is an organization founded upon principles of inclusion and decency, and its story is forever linked with the struggle to break down barriers of discrimination and bigotry, even as others were still erecting them,” Kiesel said. “[The] decision to adopt a policy inclusive of all families is consistent with that history, and the ACLU of Oklahoma applauds their leadership.”

 
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