YMCA Denies Same-Sex Couple Park Pass Because They’re Not A “Traditional Family”

Melody Mohn and Hela Young, courtesy Gay Star News
Melody Mohn and Hela Young, courtesy Gay Star News

A same-sex couple in central Ohio is working to change their city’s definition of “family” after discovering that a decades-old ordinance barred their family from receiving a family discount at a local business.

Melody Mohn told 10TV that she’s been taking her three children to the Heise Park Pool in Galion for several years, citing it as “tradition” on hot summer days. As a frequent guest of the YMCA-operated public pool, Mohn has paid a $200 annual fee for an unlimited summer access passes to the pool in the past. This year, her family now includes her partner Hela Young, so she applied for the “family pass,” available for families at a deeply discounted price of $80.

Mohn says she was stunned when YMCA employees at the Heise Park Pool denied her application, citing a city ordinance that defines a family as “a mother, father, and up to three children.”

Mohn tells Gay Star News that she then called the city’s administrative office to complain, anticipating a “quick fix” to undo the legally sanctioned discrimination in Galion. Unfortunately, staff at the city’s administrative office offered no help, but referred back to the Galion city ordinance that “defines family.”

“I was pretty shocked,” she told GSN. “I really didn’t expect them referring to an old ordinance.” To get the word out, she started a petition.

Mohn brought her concerns to the Galion City Council, where members told NBC4 Wednesday that they weren’t aware the ordinance even existed until the issue was brought to their attention. “It’s an asterisk at the bottom, a notation at the bottom that I didn’t know was there until we got it last night,” said Sarah Capretta, member of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

In response to the outdated ordinance, the Galion City Council has agreed to investigate and reevaluate the wording in its definition of family. “We certainly don’t want to do anything to prevent children and parents to go swimming in our pool,” said Carl Watt, Galion City Council President.

The City Council’s next meeting will take place on July 17, where the definition of “family” is expected to be discussed. By all accounts, it seems that this story will indeed have a happy ending, as most City Council members speaking to the press are troubled by the archaic wording. “I mentioned I am a conservative Chrisitan, so I definitely have my beliefs on what a traditional marriage should be,” Council member Jon Kleinknecht said, “but that’s not what this is about. This is about the children and it’s about them being able to use the pool.”

In the meantime, the City Council has suggested the pool change their definition of “family” pass to “group” or “household” pass.

The change may not take effect before the season is over, but Mohn says she’s at least glad she inspired change. If it changes for other families here – because we are not the only same-sex couple and we are not the only non-traditional family – so if it does something for them as well, good,” she told 10TV.

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  • Teeth

    Before the righteous indignation train plows through… I just want to point out that Y’s are local. MY YMCA is very welcoming of gay family. In fact, they side-stepped the whole issue by defining family membership as “up to two adults and up to three kids at the same residency”. We’ve been family members for 10 years. There is a stated no-tolerance for racial , sexist, ageist or homophobic comments.

  • NateB79

    @Teeth: Absolutely. My YMCA is the same. My partner and I were able to get a family pass with absolutely no problem. They even allowed us to add my disabled mother that lives with us to our family membership.

  • hyhybt

    I can see why an organization issuing family passes (the Y, in this case) would have a limit to the number of people that could be included, but why would the *city* define a family as having no more than three children?

  • niles

    This does not make any sense. If she has three children, why had he not applied for family rates before?

    • hyhybt

      @niles: Because they don’t count a single mom plus kids as a family either.

  • Frank

    YMCA = Young Men’s Christian Association.
    YWCA = Young Women’s Christian Association.

    Maybe they are dropping the kids off at the wrong pool? I kid, I kid… but still.

    And the fact the YMCA was so quick to pull a local outdated law on them to turn them down, a law which shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t overrule a nationwide YMCA policy of non discrimination, shows in fact they WERE discriminated against. It sounds to me like the YMCA needs to fire somebody when it finally comes out this person never failed to issue a family pass to anyone with MORE than 3 kids.

  • CCTR

    It would be interesting to know if any single parent families and/or families with more than three kids ever got the pass and why the woman had never tried to challenge the idea that she and her three kids were indeed a family when there was no partner.
    Nonetheless, good that this outdated policy is being challenged and brought to light.

  • Texasteacher

    Am I the only one thinking that if I were the guy at the front desk approving “family passes,” I would accept any group of people who say that they’re related as long as they live at the same address? If they all receive mail at one household, they are living more or less as a family, travel as a family and engage in recreation as a family… whether it’s your disabled aunt, your wife and your exchange student daughter… who needs detailed explanations? I think the YMCA should rename the “family pass” the “household pass” in order to let them give the intended discount without stepping into a battlefield.

  • Texasteacher

    Sorry to keep talking, but doesn’t this all fit under the same category as the article about the fundamentalist Christians unhappy about not being able to talk negatively about gays at work and all those stories about the cake decorators not wanting to make a wedding cake for same-sex couples? Basically everyone disapproving of us wants to be an amateur minister! I don’t need the guy behind the counter at YMCA counselling me on who I can have a conjugal relationship with any more than I want my minister spotting me at the gym while I do incline press. I don’t need a sermon from the cake decorator about who I can marry anymore than I want my priest decorating my cake. I don’t need a lecture about homosexuality and the Bible from the P.E. teacher in the teachers’ lounge anymore than the kids want their rabbi leading basketball layup drills.

  • cformusic

    this type of thing still happens?

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