SALISBURY, MD -- The Mid-Delmarva Family YMCA in Salisbury, MD, is the latest Y to deny membership to registered sex offenders—a practice that appears to be gaining momentum nationwide.

YMCAs in Michigan, Connecticut and several other states also banned registered sex offenders from their facilities.

Officials from the Mid-Delmarva Family YMCA cited child safety as the reason for their decision to eliminate sex offenders from its membership list.

“Evaluating this decision, we felt that basically we're a family organization first,” Rich Stover, Mid-Delmarva YMCA chief executive officer, told local media. “One of those awesome responsibilities we face is to protect the children. This is an opportunity to identify and remove anyone posing a threat to them. Safety is far more important than membership numbers.”

Beginning this week, the Y plans to run its membership list through the National Sex Offender database using software from DAXKO and Raptor Technologies. Stover said any matches will be verified, and that members will be allowed to appeal the decisions.

Although such policies are gaining momentum in Ys nationwide, some question whether the organizations could be liable for legal action based on anti-discrimination laws. Others wonder if such measures make it harder to rehabilitate past offenders.

“I understand people’s need for safety, and I can’t stress enough that I am all for keeping children safe,” Dr. Kathryn Seifert, CEO of Eastern Shore Psychological Services told local media. “There are some offenders who have been through treatment and will never offend again. ... Part of people coming out of jail is learning to be part of a pro-social society. If they can't be a part of that society, they will continue to be anti-social. ... Looking at the circumstances of someone's offense would be the common sense approach.”