A month ago, Shane and Coty May were newlyweds seeking a discounted gym membership. Today, they’re at the center of a heated local debate over gay marriage and whether their hometown should recognize it or not.
In early January, the couple applied for a family membership at the Natatorium, they were turned down because the Parks and Recreation Board did not consider their marriage legal.
Wednesday, Cuyahoga Falls Law Director Paul Janis released a 10-page legal opinion, stating the City Council could override the board’s authority and establish new membership categories for the fitness center, but Council isn't required to as same-sex marriage isn't recognized in Ohio.
The parks board also can create alternative membership categories if it wishes, he added.
The board will hold its monthly meeting today at 5:30 p.m. at the Natatorium. It's unclear whether the board will discuss the membership issue.
The Mays said they weren’t surprised by the news and are considering whether or not to address the city council or the board in the coming weeks.
Their marriage wasn’t considered real
After a four-year relationship, the Mays were married on Oct. 28 of last year in Washington, D.C.
Once married, they approached the Natatorium staff in early January to apply for a family-rate plan to save $260 a year.
Coty has used the exercise facility for three years to help with his rehabilitation. He served with a U.S. Army medical unit in Iraq for 18 months and suffered leg and nerve injuries when his convoy was attacked and bombed.
“We were told that our marriage was not considered real and until the state of Ohio recognized gay marriage (the Natatorium’s) systems were unable to reflect us as such,” said Shane.
After receiving the same answer from city officials, they grew frustrated, posted an online petition that drew 5,400 signatures and garnered national media attention.
And, last week, they orchestrated a protest call-in, asking members from the community to phone Mayor Don Robart's office and opine on the issue.
Shane and Coty say they're still trying to get used to the publicity, but they’re encouraged because the attention is a reflection of a gay rights cause that’s gaining momentum in the mainstream.
What do you think the Parks and Recreation Board should do?
If the board approves a change to include same-sex couples under the family membership, should the Cuyahoga Falls City Council override the decision or support it?