Carilion did the right thing last week by changing its ill-advised policy barring same-sex couples from joining the Roanoke Athletic Club and Botetourt Athletic Club as families.
The pity is, it took 40 days, a lawsuit and a torrent of criticism to accomplish that.
By now the facts are well known. Will Trinkle, a real estate agent who’s gay and is raising a child with a male partner, signed up for a family membership at the RAC May 15.
Nine days later in a telephone call, the RAC revoked it, under the reasoning that Trinkle and his partner didn’t qualify as “a family.” Carilion had claimed it was following Virginia law.
That was a crock, because Virginia law doesn’t define the term “family,” at least not yet. Nor has the General Assembly gotten around to prohibiting private businesses from granting such memberships to families headed by same-sex parents. (But give them some time. Del. Bob Marshall may be working on the bill as you read this).
So Trinkle filed a lawsuit, and the ensuing story made national news. By Thursday afternoon, at least 100,000 people from across the country had signed a petition at Change.org condemning the RAC and Carilion. The number more than doubled in a single day.
This brought the RAC more publicity than anything else in its history. And all of it was negative, aimed at a company that is by far the Roanoke Valley’s largest employer.
By extension, it made this region look like the kind of atavistic backwater that only the Rev. Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps could be proud of.
The other pity, in my estimation, is that Carilion’s reversal probably means Trinkle’s young son will be spending much of the rest of his summer in a concrete, chemical-laden swimming pool. That poor kid.
There was another neat solution, had the lawsuit dragged on. Trinkle and his partner could have signed up at Loch Haven Lake, the swim club my family belongs to.
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