Thank you for serving on our YMCA Board. I recognize what a tremendous time commitment it is to serve our community, and want to applaud you for choosing such a special place to volunteer your time. I have been a member of a YMCA for many years, and my family has been members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA since moving here in 2004. Our two kids have participated in many programs, such as afterschool, Camp Kanata, sports camps and Middle School Madness. We have been swimming, played racquetball, and shooting hoops at the Y. Our son is currently a member of the Leaders Club, and our daughter (who now drives) goes to the Y nearly every day to work out. My domestic partner, Alicia, and I use the workout equipment on a regular basis. In short, we are a family that uses the Y in typical ways, although we are not a typical family.
When I heard about the possible merger with the YMCA of the Triangle, my antenna went up, as it often does when I worry about the effect that policies may have on my family. In my role as an elected official on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, when reviewing prospective policies or ordinances, I always make certain that our LGBT community is protected the same way that other groups that have traditionally been discriminated against are protected. I also make certain that our LGBT community is being treated as equally as the rest of our community. Fortunately, when I bring these matters to the attention of the rest of the Board of Aldermen, I always get a positive response, as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community has been and continues to be unfailingly supportive of the LGBT community. We were the first communities in the state to offer domestic partner benefits, and we have long had non-discrimination policies in place in the two towns, as well as in our local school system. I am proud that our YMCA has followed suit in this respect. You are the stewards of these values.
I have two concerns about the possible merger with the YMCA of the Triangle. I understand you will be discussing this tomorrow night at your December 14 meeting. One is the difference in membership categorization between our YMCA and the YMCAs of the Triangle. According to YMCA of the Triangle website, all of their Ys, except Durham, have a “Husband/Wife With Dependents” category, but no other family-style category. I called the Cary YMCA to find out how two partners and their children would become members of the Cary Y. I was told that one adult would have to register with the family’s children, and the other adult would register as just an adult. When I asked if this was the only way this could be done, I was told, “Well, yes, but don’t worry. It is the same cost.” When I called the Durham YMCA to find out how a married couple with children could become members, the receptionist told me that they had a “Two Adults Plus Dependents” category. I asked if that covered both married and unmarried couples, and was told yes. When I asked why this was not shown on the website, I was told that the website must not have been updated yet. Well, I know that Durham has been a member of the YMCA of the Triangle since 2002, and I believe this policy has been in place for quite some time. Yet, the YMCA of the Triangle does not feel it is necessary to put this policy on its Durham website. LGBT persons should not have to work so hard to find this information. As I am sure you are aware, on our Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA website, it is clearly stated that couples and family memberships are available for registered domestic partners. Frankly, I speak for many when I say this is very meaningful to us.
My second concern is that various applications (employment, volunteer and coaching) for the YMCA of the Triangle do not include sexual orientation on their anti-discrimination clauses. Specifically, these applications read, “Applicants are considered for all positions with regard to race, religion, sex, national origin, age, color, or disability.” As you are no doubt aware, our Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA applications read “It is the policy of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro YMCA to ensure equal employment opportunity as to all terms, conditions, & privileges of employment without discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, veteran status, or disability.” We need to retain this policy.
I recognize that this is not an easy decision for your board. I am well aware of all of the considerations that have to be given to a decision of this sort. Each year, when we approve the Town budget, we have to carefully balance projected revenues with services we need to provide, as well as with the values of our community. I read where the chair-elect of your board pointed out on www.orangepolitics.com that to not go forward with this merger may mean not being able to “offer afterschool tutoring to struggling students in Siler City or “expand our anti-child abuse training program.” I would submit, in response, that we have an absolute duty, first of all, to make certain our own members feel welcome to join, participate, volunteer and work at the YMCA; i.e., to make our own members feel valued.
On a final note, I believe that abrogating these progressive policies will be a terrible step backward. While we may not always feel it in North Carolina, the tide is moving forward on LGBT rights. It is my hope that it will not be long before the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act passes, an act that will prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees. Further, the recent vote by Raleigh City Council (emulating Carrboro, Chapel Hill and others) and other public rejections by high-ranking officials, including Republicans, against the proposed North Carolina marriage amendment are positive signs that we are heading in the right direction.
I hope that if we merge with the YMCA of the Triangle that it is on our terms, and that we retain our inclusive policies. I would be happy to speak with you individually about this matter. Thank you, and I would appreciate it if you would give my e-mail your thoughtful consideration.