Recently a local same-sex couple was denied a Family Pass for use at the Heise Park Pool. While they were still allowed to use the pool at standard admission rates, the situation brought to light the ever-changing concept of what a family is — making this more than a matter of gay rights.
There are numerous examples of non-traditional families, such as single-parent households, grandparents and other blood relatives being caregivers, adoptive families, blended families, and, yes, gay couples raising children.
All types of non-traditional families have been excluded from the current city ordinance that sets the fees for the pool. For the purpose of a Family Pass, it defines “family” as a mother, father and up to three children, with a $5 charge for each additional child.
In response to the situation, during the July 8 council meeting Ord. 2014-63 was on the agenda. In effect, it would change the language to define a family as “those who live in the same household, up to five members.” (The $5 charge for each additional child would remain.)
Prior to discussion on the legislation, citizen Bob Cerar offered his views on the pool pass issue. He began by stating that he thought council did a good job on passing the revised pool fees in May, particularly with adding the clause for adults who supervise their children but do not swim.
With the item being brought back to the table that evening, Cerar said he believed council was being pressured to do two things: 1) Tell the world that Galion believes that something wrong is right, by changing a law to give support and privileges to those who don’t deserve them. 2) Use our tax money for something I feel is wrong, and forcing all of us to agree with something that’s never been considered a family in the past.
According to him, a family is defined as living in the same household and being related by blood, marriage or adoption. While he did say the term “family” could be broadened to include grandparents and blood relatives, Cerar maintained that gay couples are not legally recognized in Ohio.
“There is no law that requires the city to accommodate the request. Sympathy is not a legitimate reason,” he concluded.
Later during the discussion on the ordinance, Council member Tom Fellner stated, “I don’t believe it’s our job to redefine ‘family’…We’re talking about the pool and children and access to recreation.” He suggested amending the legislation by changing “family” to “group,” in order to make access to pool passes all-encompassing.
“Let’s not make this an issue that it’s not,” Fellner said.
Council members Shirley Clark and Mike Richart both agreed with making the change.
“Nobody’s saying that anybody should be kept out of the pool,” Cerar emphasized. “All I’m saying is the only reason to have a pass is to save money. If the city is already subsidizing the pool and more people are using the pass, the city subsidizes [the pool] even deeper.”
Council member Jon Kleinknecht viewed it differently. “My beliefs on marriage are what they are, but the bottom line is the parks system and the pool are there for children to enjoy,” he responded. “If somebody wants to save themselves a few bucks, I can live with that. I try to save money when I can, too. The children are the ones who would be hurt here.”
Council President Carl Watt informed council that he talked to Terry Gribble, executive director of the Galion YMCA. “I asked him what has been the situation in the past. He said they do have problems, but have stuck by the ordinance…Unless the adult has legal custody, they don’t issue a pass.”
Watt said he was told that people have complained about this and it is difficult for the pool staff to monitor.
Prior to the meeting, he requested that the clerk do a survey of surrounding communities to see how they handle family passes. Six cities were on the list provided to council; none of them specified that a family must include a mother and father.
Bucyrus: Family pass for two adults and two children, with an additional per child (non-custodial parents can get a pass)
Crestline: Family pass for two adults and all children in same household
New Washington: Family pass for everyone in the same household with no limit on number of children
Marion: Family pass for those who live in the same household for 3-6 persons
Willard: Family pass 3-4 persons with an additional charge per person
Shelby: Family of four living in same household with additional charge per child
Following discussion, council unanimously passed a motion to send the ordinance to the Parks and Streets Committee to rework the language. UPDATE: The Parks meeting will be Thursday, July 17 at 7 p.m., at the city building.