On May 15th of this year, Will Trinkle applied for a family membership at the Roanoke Athletic Club. Beyond the personal, obvious reasons that one would have for signing up to a gym, Trinkle had an ulterior motive – he wanted his 2-year-old son, Oliver, to be able to use the facility’s outdoor pool during the summer.
Roanoke Athletic Club, a gym owned by regional medical provider Carilion Clinic, only permits kids on family memberships to use the pool.
While working on his application, Trinkle filled in all of the fields honestly and truthfully. In the field for spouse, he wrote the name of his partner: Juan Granados. Where it said to fill in the name of the dependent child, Trinkle wrote in his son’s name: Oliver Trinkle-Granados.
Once he was finished with all of the necessary paperwork, Trinkle submitted it with no apparent problems. His application was ultimately accepted, processed and reviewed with, once again, no evident bumps in the road.
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Trinkle, Granados and their boy were eventually approved and given permission to use the facilities as any other folks would theoretically be able to. A $50 initiation fee and a $120 monthly fee were charged to Trinkle’s credit card.
The good times lasted for a little more than a week.
Nine days later, on May 24th, a representative from Roanoke Athletic Club contacted Trinkle and told him that his application shouldn’t have been approved. Why? Well, because Virginia does not recognize same-sex marriage and, thus, Trinkle’s family didn’t qualify as a real family.
Furthermore, as Trinkle told ABC: "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."
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Why had their application been approved in the first place, then?
Simple – while reviewing the application, the gym thought that Trinkle’s partner was a Juanita, not a Juan. The distinction makes a world of difference, apparently.
Naturally, Trinkle and his partner didn’t take their rejection laying down. They pledged to file suit and seek out due compensation for their hardships under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
As word of the lawsuit began to gain momentum and various media outlets began to cover it, Roanoke Athletic Club scrambled to fix their mess.
Via a message posted to the gym’s Facebook page on July 5th:
Dear RAC/BAC members,
We want to let you know that the Roanoke and Botetourt Athletic Clubs are making a change in our membership guidelines. We will be distributing an email blast to all members, but because the change is important and effective immediately, we are sharing the news on Facebook as well.
Since opening our doors over three decades ago, we have always strived to provide the very best in service, programs, and staffing. Our goal has been, and always will be to encourage and inspire health and wellness among all members of the communities we serve.
In keeping with this goal, and in recognition of the many contemporary households that can benefit from our facilities through discounted membership fees, we are pleased to announce that we have expanded our Family Membership into a new Household Membership with the following criteria:
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. There is no requirement to amend your membership, but should this change be advantageous to you, please contact our sales office. If we may answer any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
We thank you for your continued patronage and will never take that for granted.
With sincerest thanks,
Bud Grey, VP, CC
So, what does this mean for Trinkle’s lawsuit? That’s unknown at the moment. ABC tried to reach and out and see if that was still happening – but they got no response.
On a grander scale, once you get past the hilarious way that Roanoke Athletic Club caved to public pressure, this situation makes for an interesting debate.
If Virginia law, per the Marshall-Newman Amendment, notes that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman, can you have a family that doesn’t fit into that characterization still be considered a family? What about if you have one man and one woman who have a child, live together and share finances, but aren’t married? Is that a family in the Roanoke Athletic Club’s eyes?
It is under the new guidelines, obviously – but what about the old ones?
Here is what we know for certain: unless the U.S. adopts a single, indisputable understanding for what a family is, “family memberships” being limited to married couples is ridiculous. It’s asking for trouble in every sense. Not just because of same-sex couples; because of the apprehensiveness that straight people have these days when it comes to getting married, too.
It’s probably a safe bet that we’re going to hear about a lot of other cases -- almost identical to this one -- in the near future.