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Virginia health club to offer ‘household’ memberships to unmarried couples with children

Gay couple sued Roanoke health club after it revoked their family membership



Law gavel, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo via Wikimedia)

A Virginia health club that rescinded a gay couple’s family membership announced on Thursday that it will now offer “household” memberships to unmarried couples with children under 22.

“Since opening our doors over three decades ago, we have always strived to provide the very best in service, programs, and staffing,” said Bud Grey, vice president of Carilion Clinic, which oversees the Roanoke and Botetourt Athletic Clubs, in a post to its Facebook page. “Our goal has been, and always will be to encourage and inspire health and wellness among all members of the communities we serve. In keeping with this goal, and in recognition of the many contemporary households that can benefit from our facilities through discounted membership fees, we are pleased to announce that we have expanded our Family Membership into a new Household Membership.”

The Roanoke Athletic Club did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment, but Grey further outlined the new policy in his Facebook post.

“A household consists of a primary member and up to one additional household member that permanently lives in the household, and any of their dependent children under the age of 22 who also reside in the household on a permanent basis,” he wrote. “Club dues will not change; dues for the Household Membership will be the same as the Family Membership it is replacing. There is no requirement to amend your membership.”

Will Trinkle said in a lawsuit that he filed in Roanoke Circuit Court last week that he successfully applied for a family membership on May 15 that would have allowed he and his partner Juan Granados’ 2-year-old son to use the pool. The Roanoke Athletic Club initially approved the application, but Trinkle maintains that it and Carilion Clinic violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act when they revoked it less than two weeks later.

Trinkle further claims that Roanoke Athletic Club employees told him and Granados that they had cancelled their membership because the state does not legally recognize them and their son as a family.

“We’re very happy that families prevailed in the end—all families,” Trinkle told the Blade late on Thursday. He said that while he and Granados were “sorry” that they had to file a lawsuit “to get here,” the couple applauded Carilion Clinic for changing their policy.

“It took a lot of courage to bring a lawsuit like this,” added the couple’s lawyer, John Fishwick. “This is how you make change.”

Carilion Clinic, which is the largest employer in Roanoke, operates seven hospitals and more than 150 other health care facilities in Southwest Virginia. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute is also located in Roanoke.

Mark Ferguson, a gay D.C. resident who grew up in Roanoke and blogs about Appalachian issues, launched a petition after Trinkle filed his lawsuit that urged the health club to offer family memberships to unmarried couples. He described Carilion Clinic’s decision to amend the club’s policy to the Blade as “a very exciting surprise.”

“I applaud the company for hearing from the more than 100,000 people who spoke up and said there’s no room for discrimination in this world,” said Ferguson.

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  1. Kenny

    July 6, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Terribly short-sighted and arrogant that the Roanoke Athletic Club was so quick to rescind the membership, sighting VA state policy. The right thing to do from the start, should have been to grant the membership (great Customer Service..HUGE positive PR by allowing “non-traditional” families membership). Hiding their own discriminatory actions by blaming it on the state is unconscionable. The Sate of VA, the last time I checked, does not tell you how to run your business. Now they have this negative press to contend with! THANK YOU to Mr. Trinkle filing his lawsuit! Now there is a precedent!

  2. John-Manuel Andriote

    July 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Amazing what a little ‘sunlight’–in the form of a lawsuit and bad publicity–can do to make businesses literally see the light. Now if the club provides a hospitable welcome to those who take advantage of the new membership category, they may very well attract more members when people tell their friends. That is how good customer service pays off–and they have already had a taste of what poor customer service can do, including get you sued.

  3. brian

    July 8, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Carilion Clinic, which is the largest employer in Roanoke, operates seven hospitals and more than 150 other health care facilities in Southwest Virginia. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute is also located in Roanoke.
    And to both excellent comments, I’ll just add that we shouldn’t underestimate the positive cascading impact of the ‘Obama Effect’ in this case.

    The Obama Administration’s hospital non-discrimination executive directives coupled with overwhelming national LGBT protest is the way real change is likely to occur in more rural, conservative locations across the nation.

    With the ACA’s constitutionality now sustained by SCOTUS, anti-LGBT discrimination is all the more RISKY business by hospitals and their holding corporations and stockholders.

    In this instance, a lawsuit (apparently based upon VA’s standard breach of contract/ fraud statutes, not discrimination) got the defendant’s attention. But when the story hit national LGBT press headlines and generated a national ( petition, Carilion’s lawyers were quickly made aware of two things…
    1) The LGBT plaintiffs in Roanoke could expect broad-based financial backing for their suit from the national LGBT community, if necessary. And worse still,
    2) with heightened LGBT awareness of Carilion’s apparent anti-LGBT discrimination at their athletic club, Carilion’s 7 hospitals and many clinics might face additional lawsuits– PLUS possible adverse federal action under the Obama Administrations directives against anti-LGBT discrimination in hospitals.

    Despite the efforts in Virginia by McDonnell and Cuccinelli to weaken or eliminate LGBT rights protections,
    Virginia businesses are coming to the conclusion that anti-LGBT discrimination is just really bad news for their businesses.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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