Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA Merger Talks Raise Discrimination Concerns

Molly De Marco's picture
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA (CHCYMCA) took a stand recently against discrimination when it asked Boy Scout Troop 505 to find another location to meet because the Boy Scouts of America's policy against LGBT youth and adult leaders is at odds with the inclusive nondiscrimination policy of the CHCYMCA. While the CHCYMCA board members receive complaints about their decision, they should remember that the same complaints were made when the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Binkley Baptist Church told the Boy Scouts they could no longer meet at their facilities and when the local United Way determined that it could no longer provide funds to the Boy Scouts.

The CHCYMCA made the right decision in the Boy Scout case, but they are now contemplating another move that members are concerned may not come out right.

The CHCYMCA is in talks with the YMCA of the Triangle Area (YOTA) about a possible merger or management services agreement. According to board minutes, the CHCYMCA initiated talks with YOTA on July 13, 2010. The main concern is that YOTA does not define family inclusively, does not include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy, and does not extend benefits to same-sex partners of employees.

The largest health insurance companies in the area, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and United Health Care, both have a 50 plus 1 policy: a company like YOTA must have at least 50 employees and their opposite-sex partners take up benefits before it can extend benefits to employees' same-sex partners. The CHCYMCA would like to extend benefits to same-sex partners, but does not have enough employees. YOTA, with 18 branches, does have enough employees, but chooses not to extend benefits.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen passed a resolution in June expressing concern about the possible merger. In addition, Chapel Hill Town Council Member Penny Rich spoke at a recent council meeting against a merger if it results in less inclusivity at the CHCYMCA.

Mergers with YOTA have led to problems before. When the Downtown YMCA of Durham merged with YOTA in 2004, Duke University and the City of Durham called foul because households of same-sex partners were no longer included in the definition of family to qualify for the family membership rate. Duke terminated its agreement with YOTA when the two could not reach agreement on including same-sex couples in the definition of family. Several months later, YOTA changed its fee structure so that same-sex-headed households would not have to pay more than opposite-sex-headed households, but they did not change their definition of family.

Some encouraging news was provided at the recent quarterly meeting of the CHCYMCA board with its members. During this meeting, Executive Director Jerry Whortan stated that YOTA has agreed to amend its membership policy to expand the definition of family to include those headed by same-sex couples. However, this policy change will not go into effect until March 2012.

The three board members in attendance stressed that they are still in talks with YOTA and can walk away if they are not happy with what they find out. Meeting minutes show an August 1 deadline to decide whether to go forward, but that date has likely been dropped because the board has scheduled a Board meeting for Wednesday August 24th at 12:00 pm [date added by author 7/26 after info obtained from assistant to Executive Director], though they do not normally meet in August. The next regular quarterly meeting with members is October 20.

Sources for this blog post include:
  • The CHCYMCA board meeting minutes for the past year (excluding the June 2011 minutes, when the Boy Scouts issue was put up for vote, which have not yet been approved). Minutes can be requested by e-mailing  boardofdirectors@chcymca.org. I have also suggested that they be posted on the web site.
  • The executive director, branch director, and board members of the CHCYMCA via questions asked during their quarterly meeting with members on July 20, 2011.
  • Carrboro Board of Aldermen Meeting minutes: http://townofcarrboro.org/BoA/Minutes/2011/06_14_2011.pdf
 
Related news articles:
  • http://www.carrborocitizen.com/main/2011/07/07/ymca-boy-scouts-part-ways/
  • http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2011/07/03/65356/ymca-says-scouts-must-leave.html
  • http://dukechronicle.com/article/duke-ymca-struggle-over-definition-family
  • http://dukechronicle.com/article/ymca-cancels-meeting-same-sex-families
  • http://dukechronicle.com/article/duke-ymca-terminate-agreement
  • http://dukechronicle.com/article/ymca-alters-fee-structure 
 [I have been a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA for four years.]

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3 Comments

Mia Burroughs's picture

Great reporting

I thank Molly for doing a really thorough job reporting on this issue. 
As a fellow Y member, I have been watching this issue carefully since
last fall when I heard the former Y Chair mention possible merger with
YOTA.  I have been proud to be part of a Y that has taken the unusual
stand of including sexual orientation in its non-discrimination
policies.  For several months, I worried that this decision would be
made without Y members' knowledge so I was pleased that the Y leadership
took the step of informing its members of their discussions with YOTA
and included the fact that becoming tied to YOTA could have
ramifications for its non-discrimination policies. That said, I've
written to Y Board leaders about my opposition to moving forward with
this relationship until the YOTA board votes to change its non-discrimination
policy.  We can't go backwards.

Molly De Marco's picture

CHCYMCA Board may have already voted on Y of the Triangle merger

I attended the August 24th meeting of the Chapel Hill Carrboro YMCA Board as an interested member. I was the only non-board member in attendance. They had a 20-minute meeting where the summer's accomplishments were reviewed. I was then asked to leave because the board was going into closed session to 'update members who had missed the last meeting.' It is possible that the board voted in that closed session on the merger with the Y of the Triangle, but the board members and staff seem to be under a gag order.The next meeting of the CHCYMCA Board is Wednesday, September 28th at 12:00 pm in the fitness room at the YMCA on MLK.I cannot attend, but I urge members and other interested folks to go and let the board members know that there is opposition to our YMCA merging with the Y of the Triangle until the YOTA votes to change it's non-discrimination policy to be fully inclusive. 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Suspicious

I'm somewhat familiar with Robert's Rules of Order (having chaired a board before) and "updating members who had missed the last meeting" does not justify a closed session, unless maybe there was some closed session business at the previous meeting.If it's true that they vote, they could use the justification that business matters required a closed session, but that information by itself should hardly be a secret. If they have voted, I certainly hope they let their membership know soon!I'm not a member of the Y, but I wonder if there is enough momentum growing for a new board candidate that might challenge the merger on behalf of many frustrated members. How is their board selected?