A five-year dispute between a lesbian couple and the Greater Des Moines YMCA continues despite the offer of a conciliatory agreement by the Y. Drake University professor Sandra Patton-Imani and her partner filed a complaint with the Des Moines Human Rights Commission after they lost their family membership at the YMCA because they didn’t fit the Y’s definition of a family.
The Commission convinced the Y to expand its definition of family from a husband and wife, and their dependent children to include others who "function as a family." But Patton-Imani says no one talked to her during negotiations for the agreement.
Patton-Imani says, "It isn’t even so much the issue of getting the membership. But the fact that we’re the people being discriminated against here and we felt out needs were really not met and were really not considered." Patton-Imani says they won’t sign the agreement.
"The YMCA’s lawyer wrote the conciliatory agreement, did not include any of our requests or demands, but included their requests and demand for confidentiality. Obviously, we’re not honoring that," Patton-Imani says. The executive director of the YMCA, Vernon Delpesce, says the human rights commission served as intermediary in the negotiations and the Y didn’t determine how they were conducted.
Delpesce says the Y thought its current policy was fine and not discriminatory, but agreed to add a statement for those who " function as a family" at the urging of the commission.