ROANOKE, Va. - A Roanoke fitness club has changed its membership policies after a gay man sued claiming it sold him a family membership, then revoked it after realizing that his family consisted of two fathers and a son.
Carilion Clinic, the parent company of Roanoke Athletic Club, said Thursday on its Facebook page that it will offer household memberships to cohabiting couples and their dependent children under age 22 who live with them.
The change at Roanoke Athletic Club and Botetourt Athletic Club is taking place "in recognition of the many contemporary households that can benefit from our facilities," according to the posting. What had been called a "family membership" is now called a "household membership."
William Trinkle, of Roanoke, sued Roanoke Athletic Club and Carilion last week in Roanoke Circuit Court, alleging breach of contract and violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Trinkle said that he; his partner, Juan Granados; and their two-year-old son, Oliver; were barred from using the facilities because they didn't meet club officials' definition of a family. He sought to have the club honor the contract and reinstate his family membership.
Trinkle's lawyer, John Fishwick Jr., said his client is pleased with the change, which he said will benefit many types of families. Fishwick said he was discussing the status of the lawsuit with Trinkle in light of the policy change, and said he hasn't communicated directly with Carilion Clinic officials.
An email and a telephone message left for Carilion Clinic spokesman Eric Earnhart weren't immediately returned Thursday.
Trinkle purchased a family membership May 15. Club officials approved Trinkle's application, and the family started using the facilities. Trinkle and Granados were shocked when the club's operations director told them in a telephone call May 24 that same-sex couples don't meet what they said was Virginia's legal definition of family.
"It came out of left field, and it was a punch to the gut to both of us," Trinkle said earlier Thursday in a telephone interview. "We joined the pool so we could have swimming lessons and enjoy the summer by the pool, simple as that."
Virginia doesn't recognize single-sex marriage but state law doesn't specifically define what constitutes a family.
Conversations with Carilion Clinic's management indicated that the employee who sold the membership thought Granados' first name was "Joan" even though Trinkle said he made it clear that Juan was his same-sex partner, according to the lawsuit filed on June 27. Roanoke Athletic Club officials also informed them that they'd make sure that similar instances wouldn't happen, Trinkle said.
"They said, `Because of you, we are tightening up our policies so people don't get as far as you have,'" he said.
Roanoke Athletic Club and Carilion violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act when the club "used false promises or misrepresentations in connection with a consumer transaction" to sell the family membership to Trinkle and Granados, then refuse to honor the terms of the membership, according to the lawsuit.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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