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OpinioMinnesota civil rights law supports same-sex couple side

By Dottie and Frank Hawthorne

Our "traditional" family — which includes occasional users of the Rochester Athletic Club — was very upset recently to see that the RAC is denying full privileges to another family, the Monsons, whose parents’ sexual orientation denies them under current law the formal "married" status that would apparently qualify them for a family membership discount.

We were even more disturbed last weekend to see the Post-Bulletin editorial titled "Couple’s agenda comes at health club’s expense," coupled with your assumption that the suit against the club "filed by two women appears to have little merit from a legal standpoint."

As longtime volunteers in support of the GLBT community, we would ask both the club owners and the Post-Bulletin editorial staff to rethink their position in light of both our nation’s history and of the actual Minnesota Human Rights Law.

Our history reminds us that cultural minorities and outsiders (at least those so designated or treated by the majority) have always been viewed as impatient, divisive and contentious, simply because they refused to accept the status quo.

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Minnesota law tells us that basic civil rights for equal treatment extend to all public accommodations and privately operated places of business and may not "because of race, color, creed, religion, disability, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation" be violated. Since a denial of service, or in this case, a refusal to extend a membership discount, is also included by implication, it seems clear to us that the club should have acted within the spirit of the statute by recognizing that the women are who they say they are, a family.

The "expenses" which the Rochester Athletic Club is incurring to pursue this case extend far beyond the mere rigid observance of its membership policies and are unfortunately reminiscent of another era. Granting the Monsons a family membership would have obviously been the smart thing to do for the RAC to maintain its excellent relations with all its customers, but more importantly, it would have been the right thing to do.

Dottie and Frank Hawthorne are longtime Rochester residents.

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