Texas YMCA Denies Lesbian Couple Membership

by Yesha Callahan

tyler, texas

A lesbian couple in Tyler, Texas has been denied a family membership to the Tyler YMCA because they’re not considered a ‘traditional’ family and could not produce a marriage certificate. They may never be able to produce a marriage certificate because same-sex marriages are not allowed in Texas. Previously, Suzy Sheridan, her life partner and son were allowed to join the Tyler YMCA, but only because he was on the swim team. Now that their son is 20 years old, the YMCA refuses to let them join as a family. The couple also takes care of another child as well.

In the age of social media protest, Sheridan started a Change.org petition, which has so far received over 7,000 signatures:

The Tyler YMCA has discriminated against my family and denied letting us join under the family plan because we are not a traditional family. My life partner and I have been together for over twenty years and have a 20-year-old son. We also assist another young man who has lived with us nearly two years. I was told I would have to produce a marriage certificate before they would let us join under the family plan. I told them that was not possible since I live in Texas and our long time relationship was not recognized in this state. I told them that I felt they were being discriminatory.

What’s ironic is that they didn’t have a problem letting us join under the family plan when our son swam on their swim team 10 years ago. I feel they should have a policy across the board for all their facilities allowing all types of families to join their organization.

In a previous incident of discrimination by Baylor’s Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas, Alex Rodriguez and his partner were denied a membership, because they were not considered a‘family’ as well. Although a complaint was filed, it eventually was dropped after the fitness center decided to get rid of the family membership plan all together.

Do you think the YMCA has a right to deny a membership to same-sex couple, or any type of non-traditional partnership?

  • Pat

    The YMCA is an organization which stands by their traditional values. It is sort of a catch 22 in that the organization was built on Christian principles; at the same time, they have longevity by its dedication to youth and community building. With changing times, they must find a balance to not veer from their Christian principles, but still incorporate community building. Community building will involve non-traditional memberships because society has changed compared to its traditional ways. Being gay is no longer shunned and same-sex marriages are accepted. I’m not shocked about their decision. I think they need to reevaluate their policy in order to continue on a positive “much-needed” path. The Y is one of the largest non-profit organizations that still open doors for the homeless, socially and economically disadvantage families, and after-school programs (strong supporter of youth building). By memberships directly affecting their various programs, they will have to begin accepting membership regardless of one’s sexual orientation or living arrangements. This is one non-profit that doesn’t need the negative publicity because of out-dated principles or making bad decisions.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    The why YMCA should just drop the family package and save themselves the headache. It is absurd to ask them to change their core Christian principles.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    Boycott the YMCA if you don’t believe in this policy. Unless they are some sort of government organization (which I don’t believe they are,) I feel they should have the right to admit whomever they want. Why would this family want to give their money to an establishment that doesn’t respect and value them as a family unit? Be glad you know they’re homophobic and keep it movin’.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    Also, family memberships/couple discounts etc. are discriminatory against people who have not found a family to be in yet, or have no desire to be in one.

    Why should people get a discount on something just because they’re coupled up? I’m not saying this should be illegal, I just think it is another example of a policy that is unfair.

  • mluv

    This is Y is definitely different. I used to work with the ymca,in another state, and many people that worked there, the administration, members and community were gay. I guess who ever is the big bosses over there don;t like it but of course not i don’t think they should be denied membership. And the state where I live does approve of gay marriage and I know texas DOES NOT.. wonder if that also has anything to do with it even though it shouldnt.. the y as far as I know is all about community and welcoming everyone.

  • Blue

    Oh c’mon. Like that didn’t know the “c” stood for “Christian” I What did they expect? I don’t get how people expect others to change their views & values to fit others who may not have the same beliefs & values as them.

  • apple

    i didn’t know the C stood for christian.. wow i never knew

  • Kema

    This is not a YMCA thing everwhere. For instance in VA the program guide states ” The YMCA of Greater Richmond defines “Family” as any two (2) adults living in the same household plus legal dependents (as defined by the State of Virginia). Adults must provide proof of address.”

  • Kema

    NYC has 2 family definition

    ” Family 2 (2 adults and dependent children under 18) Family 1 (1 adult and dependent children under 18)”

  • I wonder…

    I feel like it’s right to angry on principle. Would you be singing this tune if a black couple were denied access to the facility?

  • I wonder…

    Umm…the interpretations of these “Christian” values worked to bar interracial marriage in the sixties and earlier. If they’re such a “Christian” organization, they should refuse them service altogether. Why would they want to take money from homosexuals under one package but not under another? Let’s get real.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    This family most certainly has the right to be hurt/angry/disappointed that this is how they are being treated. The question is how they choose to respond to it.

    And yes, actually I would be saying the same thing if it were a black family. I actually wrote a blog post about something similar, you can read it here:


  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com Val


    Yeah, this is Texas, so I’m not really that surprised. The only thing that surprises me is that, as you point out, most YMCA’s are pretty progressive. They need to have a National policy on this sort of thing.

  • Honey

    This is how I feel about being a single woman and filing my taxes. I am essentially penalized because I’m not married, don’t have children and haven’t bought a house. Why do I pay MORE because of that?

  • Nakia

    They weren’t denied membership, they were denied the family discount.

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