Nontraditional Household Memberships

Filed under: Aging — Tags: — Wayne @ 11:19 am December 23, 2014

As domestic partnership registration becomes more common, many health clubs and fitness professionals may face the issue of dealing with requests for family memberships for same-sex couples. Current federal and California laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, these laws do not require health clubs to recognize homosexual couples as families. These laws can be misleading to club owners, they should keep in mind that benefits cannot be offered to one group and denied to another group based on sexual orientation. Therefore, club owners who give membership discounts to married couples cannot deny the same discounts to same-sex couples. At the same time, owners who offer membership benefits to married and same-sex couples, but deny the same benefits to heterosexual unmarried live-in couples, maybe discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

The laws can be unclear, but the following are some questions to help prepare your club to deal with same-sex discount requests:

Are discounts offered to one group of members and not to others?
Is there a written policy for same-sex couples? Is this policy enforced?
Are the policies for family memberships clearly defined?
Is the staff properly trained to handle same-sex membership inquiries?
Just as many health clubs may be struggling with their current membership policies, other have concrete policies in place. The Sea athletic Club in Eau Claire, Wis., changed its policy on Jan. 1 after requests for discount memberships from same-sex couples were made (Feb. 20, 2012). Sea decided to alter its family membership discount to avoid discriminating against same-sex families, but it also expanded its policy to include all nontraditional households, such as children living with their parents, siblings living together and unmarried heterosexual live-in couples. The decision to include all nontraditional households, instead of just same-sex couples, keeps the club free from the possibility of litigation from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Eau Claire’s household membership is based on address instead of relationship, and members qualify if they have the same address on their drivers’ licenses.

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