'Y' plans forum on family issue
The public likely will soon get to air its opinions on the local YMCA's controversial family membership policy. Representatives from the Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA and Fargo Human Relations Commission said Monday the two groups may work in ta...
The public likely will soon get to air its opinions on the local YMCA's controversial family membership policy.
Representatives from the Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA and Fargo Human Relations Commission said Monday the two groups may work in tandem to hold a public forum on the issue in July.
The Fargo Human Relations Commission would host the meeting, but representatives from the Y would begin the session with a presentation about how other YMCAs deal with membership issues, said Cheryl Bergian, chairwoman of the Commission.
The forum is tentatively set for the last full week of July, she said. A date and location has not been determined.
The membership issue was thrust into the public spotlight in March when it was discovered the YMCA had not allowed a lesbian-led family to gain a family membership at a monthly cost of $60, versus the $94 they were asked to pay.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo-Moorhead, to which the family belongs, twice asked the YMCA board to change the policy in the past two years. In March, it was beginning its third run at changing the policy.
In July 2000, the YMCA's board voted 8-4 to not deviate from its definition of family, which defines a family as a husband and wife and their dependent children.
On April 1 of this year -- and under more scrutiny than ever -- the board chose to again review the policy during the next six months, promising to make it an open process that took into account membership information from Ys here and nationwide.
"We feel it's important that people know what we're about. We're not afraid of that public scrutiny," Y board member and spokesman Craig Campbell said in April. "I think it's good that we're an open organization, and we're not going to shy away from the controversy, as difficult as it is."
But on Monday the 15-member YMCA board, on the advice of their executive committee, voted to close its June meeting. YMCA Executive Director Paul Finstad had earlier said the board would be discussing the family membership policy, though it wasn't on the agenda. Following the closed-door meeting, YMCA Board President Lynette Pederson said it was believed Y meetings are not subject to the state's open meetings laws.
She said opening them could set a bad precedent for the Y if it ever had to deal with other sensitive issues not related to the family membership policy, of which she said there was little discussion Monday.
Fellow Y Board Member David Flowers echoed Pederson's comments, but said the YMCA needs to adopt internal policies on what issues constitute closing a meeting to the public or its own membership.
In a related matter, MeritCare Fitness Center, one of two other area health clubs that had a family membership policy similar to that of the Y, changed its policy in April.
"While we regularly review our membership guidelines, the recent interest in the community regarding this issue contributed to our re-evaluation of our membership discounts," reads a MeritCare press release. In lieu of a family discount, MeritCare Fitness Center now offers a household membership discount for two or more people at one address.
Courts Plus Fitness Center, a publicly funded facility through the Fargo Park Board, is the only other local health club with a membership policy similar to the Y's. General Manager Kevin Boe said the membership policy likely will be reviewed after the Park Board election June 11.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Matthew Von Pinnon at (701) 241-5528