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Gay Rights Protest Aimed at Pressuring Mayor, City Officials

Over 200 callers are expected to flood City Hall's phone lines on Tuesday to protest the Natatorium's rule on prohibiting married, same-sex couples from acquiring family-rate memberships.

If you call on Tuesday, don’t be surprised if you get a busy signal.

Starting at 8 a.m., hundreds of protestors are expected to flood the phone lines of the Mayor’s office and request that Don Robart and the City Council reverse a decision which prohibits married gay couples from acquiring discounted gym memberships at the

According to a Facebook page created by Shane and Coty May, callers will be prompted to repeat the following scripted remarks and claims:

• All other gyms in the area welcome LGBT couples, and it’s an embarrassment to our city that the Natatorium, which is run by the city, does not.
• The Nat’s current policy treats same-sex couples as second-class citizens.
• Mayor Robart’s excuses for not changing the policy are unfounded and have been proven wrong by the ACLU and outside legal counsel.
• Nothing in Ohio state law prohibits the Nat from recognizing and welcoming same-sex couples at the family rate.

Kate Bigam, a former Natatorium employee, has helped to co-organize the call-in.

“(Shane and Coty) deserve the same rights as other married couples,” she said. “Decades from now when gay rights are more established, we’ll look back at instances like this, you know, with a sense of disbelief.”

As reported by the Akron Beacon Journal, the issue arose earlier this month when the Mays – who were legally wed in Washington D.C. three months ago – tried to buy a Natatorium family membership.

When they applied, they were rejected by the fitness center staff who said granting same-sex, family-rate memberships was against the rules.

In response, the Mays set up a petition on change.org and have gathered over 5,000 signatures, said Bigam. Every time the petition was signed, automated emails were sent to the inboxes of city officials who, in turn, blocked the messages due to the high volume.

Plans for the call-in were then set in motion, she said.

Robart and the City Council are in the process of discussing the matter with Law Director Paul Janis on how to proceed and on who should handle it.

Calls to Shane May, Mayor Don Robart and City Council president Mark Ihasz weren’t immediately returned on Monday afternoon regarding this story.

Cuyahoga Falls Patch wants to hear from our readers on this issue that has drawn both local and national attention. What sort of rights should same-sex couples be afforded? How would you handle the matter? (Given the controversial nature of this subject, please offer constructive and tactful comments).

Earl Elevant February 03, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Again, take it to the state--not the Natatorium. The courts, legislature, and/or people will decide this issue. Not the employee behind the counter at the Natatorium. Other states have laws that would be illegal if you committed the same act in Ohio and vice versa. Just because it's legal elsewhere doesn't mean you can stand behind it here as a legal principle. If they can produce a legal document in Ohio that says they're married, then it should work. At this time, they cannot do that--their marriage certificate is not a legal document here. Take it to the state. Period.
Kate Bigam February 03, 2012 at 03:47 PM
You're welcome to your opinion, but repeating "take it to the state" over & over isn't going to change anyone's mind. Many of us working on this issue ARE also working with Equality Ohio & other organizations to change Ohio's laws. That's not going to keep any of us from working at the city level, as well. This discrimination could be stopped, yet the mayor chooses not to - and that's worth fighting for.
Earl Elevant February 03, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Thanks Kate. It's good to know you're permitting me to have an opinion on this.
Jacob York February 03, 2012 at 08:58 PM
This is a good example as to why we should think about out with the old and in with the new. Mayor Robart has seen many years and should step down or re-evaluate his views and where he stands on old beliefs. Cuyahoga Falls has had a past with discrimination ever since I can remember, and now it's moving to focus that on gays. I'm no longer a resident of C. Falls, partially due to the way it is run.
Nancy J. February 03, 2012 at 10:41 PM
I second your opinion.

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