U.Va. criticized for denying gym benefits to gay partners of staff

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March 6, 2007

2:01 PM

The University of Virginia is the target of criticism by some of its gay staff members over its policy restricting access to the university recreational centers, according to a report in Charlottesville’s Daily Progress.

p. The newspaper published an article Feb. 25 focusing on U.Va.’s position, which is atypical of many of Virginia’s public institutions. While U.Va. allows the heterosexual spouses of professors and staff to purchase memberships for the recreational centers on campus, it does not allow the partners of gays to receive the same benefit.

p. According to Carol Wood, a U.Va. spokeswoman, the university’s policy is based on an opinion the school received from the office of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. “[U.Va.] is clearly compliant with state law. I cannot speak for other institutions,” Wood said in the Daily Progress.

p. Gay and lesbian staff members have reportedly met with Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-25), whose district represents Charlottesville, on the issue. Deeds, a Democrat who narrowly lost in his 2005 campaign for attorney general, is sympathetic to their concerns.

p. “I don’t see what the problem is with a gym membership,” Deeds said. “Under the current law, something like health care for same-sex partners at a public institution would be a problem, but going to the gym?”

p. The decision to restrict access is not reflected in the policies of several other public state schools, including Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University and the College.

p. According to Director of Recreational Sports Linda Knight, the College’s general statement of rights allows partners to receive gym benefits.

p. “The William and Mary Statement of Rights and Responsibilities protects students, faculty and staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation. If a homosexual faculty or staff [member] comes and asks about a membership for their partner, we extend the same offer to them as we do spouses of faculty and staff,” Knight said.

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