DES MOINES, IA -- Nearly five years after a Des Moines lesbian couple’s YMCA family membership was revoked and a city human rights commission ruled that the membership policy could be illegal, the issue is back in the news. The couple recently picked up support from a Des Moines city councilwoman who said the controversy could jeopardize a $102,000 YMCA grant scheduled to be awarded next month, according to the Des Moines Register.
The couple, Sandi and M Patton-Imani, were joined in civil union in Vermont in 2000, and say principle, not money, is the issue. A family membership would save them $13 annually. They’re ready to take the Y to court over the matter, they told the paper.
Iowa state law defines a marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman. The Greater Des Moines YMCA follows the state’s definition when it grants family memberships.
Y leaders created a new membership plan that accommodated the couple—and other non-traditional families—after the Patton-Imanis filed their complaint five years ago. However, Y officials say no law was broken.
“We weren’t found guilty” Vernon Delpesce, president of the Greater Des Moines YMCA, told the paper. “We wanted to work with the individuals, which we have. It doesn’t need to go any further.”
Jackie Feddersen Matt, marketing director of the Greater Des Moines YMCA, told the paper that the Patton-Imanis and their 3-year-old twin boys can join through the “member plus” program that allows members to add others to their membership plans. The program was not created specifically to address the issue of gay and lesbian couples, Matt told the paper.
At the time the original complaint was filed, unmarried couples had to join at the single adult rate, which was $13 more. The member plus program would cost the Patton-Imanis $70 a month, the same as a family plan.
The City Council is scheduled to vote July 9 whether to support a $102,216 federal grant for the YMCA’s housing program, according to the paper. Des Moines councilwoman Christine Hensley says she will vote "no" unless the group allows gays and lesbians to join as families.