Gay Dads Sue; Health Club Reverses Stand on Memberships

PHOTO: Will Trinkle and his partner Juan Granados are suing the Roanoke Athletic Club in Virginia for breach of contract.
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After a lawsuit was filed against the Roanoke Athletic Club by a same-sex couple for offering them a "family membership" then revoking it, the club today changed its policy.

Will Trinkle, 54, and his partner Juan Granados, 40, filed a lawsuit against the club on June 27 for breach of contract and were seeking to have their family membership reinstated.

The Virginia couple, who have been together for eight years and have a 2-year-old son Oliver, said the club had discriminated against them because they are gay.

But today, the RAC posted a new policy on its Facebook page:

"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 ...Club dues will not change; dues for the Household Membership will be the same as the Family Membership it is replacing."

"It is really defined on Facebook," an RAC club spokesman told ABCNews.com when asked if they now offer discounted memberships to gay families. "That is definitely what it says -- for public knowledge."

The athletic club is owned by Carilion Clinic, one of the region's largest medical providers. They have a company-wide nondiscrimination policy that bans bias on the basis of sexual orientation.

Eric Earnhart, spokesman for the parent company, Carilion Fitness, told ABC today said, "We have not yet received lawsuit information and can't comment on litigation."

Trinkle, a real estate agent, and Grenados, a marketing director, alleged in their lawsuit that they had been mistreated because they were same-sex parents.

"Actually it was like someone punched us in the stomach," Trinkle told ABC. "It's from a place we couldn't imagine that there would be this kind of discrimination and this kind of attack. We have come a long way but this shows we still have a long way to go."

Their lawyer, John P. Fishwick Jr., said he needed to talk to them before officially dropping legal action. The couple is in Maine vacationing with friends.

"It took a lot of courage to bring this lawsuit," Fishwick said. "Its primary purpose was for Will and his family to have a family membership. It looks like we've achieved that. It's a victory for his family and other families."

At the time, they had been told they could not have a family membership because the club defined family as "husband, wife and their children ages 21 and younger living at home."

Without the family rate of $112 a month, each of the partners would have had to pay $69 for a total of $138 and their 2-year-old child would be included, according to the club.

The couple said their initial acceptance, then rejection, was the basis for the lawsuit and they are seeking enforcement and compensation under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Trinkle said he had recently moved his offices and decided to join the club so he could use the RAC on lunch breaks and his son Oliver could swim in the pool.

On May 15, Trinkle applied for membership at RAC and was encouraged to sign up for the "family" option. The couple filled out the application truthfully, including listing the "member name" and "spouse name" and Oliver Trinkle Granados as their "dependent child."

"There was no ambiguity," he said.

The initiation fee was $50 and the first month's membership was $112, he said. Both were posted to his credit card.

The couple began to use the facilities, but on May 23 Trinkle got a call from the director of operations that the club had made a "really big mistake," and they did not meet the definition of family, the lawsuit alleges.

"We tried to resolve this with Carilion's leadership," said Trinkle. "We were not only told that they were sticking with their decision to kick us out, but because of us, they were 'tightening policies' so no families like us would ever 'get as far' as we had."

The lawsuit alleges that the RAC manager in reviewing their application thought that Granados was "Juanita" and not "Juan."

Support for Gay Dads on Change.org

A petition on Change.org has called on the owners of the club to allow same-sex families to get memberships. So far it has 40,000 signatures.

The petition author, 38-year-old Mark Lynn Ferguson of Washington, D.C., has never met the couple, but he said the story, "hit home for me on a lot of different levels."

"I am a Roanoke hometown native and the Appalachian south region is important to me," he said. 'I am also a gay guy. I felt I needed to do something to help? There's no room for this kind of discrimination."

Ferguson had seen publicity on the couple and set up the petition last week. "I had never done it before," he told ABCNews.com. "Our original goal was 10,000 signatures and we blew past that on day four or five."

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