Two of my former early morning walking buddies moved to Vermont last year. They moved for several reasons — one being that their state had passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. They no longer felt welcome there even though they had a large circle of friends who loved them and cherished their friendships. Instead, they headed to Vermont where a few years earlier they had participated in a civil union ceremony.
These are two intelligent, well-spoken women with good jobs. They pay their taxes, give to charities, keep up their house and participate in community activities. Their state and city are losing some great citizens who now will be contributing their money and talents to the future of Vermont.
Some of you might be thinking “Good riddance.” But most studies show that 10 percent of our population is homosexual. That means that some of your current members are gay — and some of your staff. Do they feel comfortable being themselves in front of you, or are they hiding that fact? Think of your best sales person or best group ex instructor. Would your attitude about them change if they suddenly told you they were gay? Should they even have to reveal that fact to you? Do your straight members and staff “reveal” to you their heterosexuality?
A recent California Supreme Court ruling states that fitness facilities in California must offer the same membership discounts to registered domestic partners as they offer married couples. And while many states don't have registered domestic partner laws and other states ban same-sex marriages, the time may come when a same-sex couple could challenge the membership discounts in other states if they don't include same-sex couples.
Many fitness facilities are being smart in adopting a new “household” membership policy. This policy is not just taking into account same-sex couples but also all the new forms of family. The definition of family has definitely changed over the years as divorce rates have risen and single women have had children. If you believe that same-sex couples are destroying marriage and not promoting the family values that you advocate at your club (i.e., family is only a male and female in a married relationship with children), then perhaps you should consider not offering membership discounts to unmarried heterosexual couples who live together. What about divorced or single parents or grandparents who are raising their grandchildren? And, if you don't want destroyers of marriage lurking in your club, perhaps you should root out all the cheating spouses.
Of course, that seems ridiculous. Besides, that's a personal matter, you say. Well, so is a member's sexual preference. Having to “come out” all the time is stressful. My two friends would prefer to just join a club and never have to announce their sexual preference (let alone flaunt it like some fitness operators may fear they would). After all, few heterosexuals have ever had to announce their sexual preference when they've joined clubs.
If you send an unwelcoming message to a portion of your potential or current membership, what are they losing out on? Perhaps a physically fit future. And, what are you losing out on? Perhaps a fiscally fit future, especially if someone decides to sue you. But even if no one does, you could be missing out on some great members who could add a lot of value to your facility.