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Gay couple with two children denied family membership at Valley Beach Park

Cary Ashby • May 14, 2014 at 11:37 PM

Norwalk native Jeffrey Taylor wasn’t denied a membership to Valley Beach Park.

However, the club is prohibiting the gay man from having a family membership with his partner, Daniel Story, even though they have two children.

“My family typically (has gone) there every summer since I was a little kid,” said Taylor, who is 23 years old. “I remember being there when I was really young.”

Taylor isn’t legally married, but is dating Daniel Story, who has two children. 

On Tuesday, Taylor inquired about membership prices at Valley Beach Park via Facebook. In a correspondence with owner Kris Maitland, Taylor asked if a “same-sex couple with two children” qualified as a family membership.

“A family is considered a husband, wife and up to three children,” Taylor said about Valley Beach’s response.

Taylor said he considers the membership policy unfair since he knows people who aren’t married yet have children together.

“We cannot consider that a family membership price,” Maitland told the Reflector about Taylor’s situation.

“A family is a husband, wife and three children under the age of 19. Family members can have up to five members,” she said when asked how Valley Beach defines a family.

If a family has more than five people, they are charged $20 per extra person. The standard family price is $255.

Maitland was asked if Valley Beach ever would be willing to change its policy on what’s considered families since there are many same-sex couples and families with unmarried parents.

“I just don’t have an answer for that,” she said.

However, Maitland added: “We might consider it, if Ohio considers it,” but she said if in that case, it doesn’t mean Valley Park would be required to change its policies since it’s privately owned.

Valley Beach, a self-declared “private Catholic swim club,” is in its 50th year of operation. The club is located at 2980 S. Ohio 61 outside of Norwalk.

Maitland was asked if she recognized Taylor’s name or his family.

“I just have his name from the Facebook messages,” she said.

Taylor, after discussing the situation with Maitland, said he initially was going to Valley Beach as a guest, but he has decided not to apply for membership.

“They lost all my business and my family’s business,” said Taylor, whose older brother has a child with his girlfriend. “None of them are happy.”

“We’re considering going to the (Norwalk) rec center because their family membership is considered your household,” he added.

When Taylor lived with his grandparents, he said he was allowed to go to the recreation center under their membership. He said he tries to support local businesses instead of going to corporate water parks or Cedar Point.

When was asked what he wants to see Valley Beach do, Taylor said he wants them to be more cooperative tolerant, especially since family units aren’t what they were decades ago.

Maitland stressed that in Taylor’s situation, “nobody was denied membership to Valley Beach.” The owner said the only time anyone is asked to leave or is refused membership is if they “get out of hand,” act obnoxiously or in a non-family-friendly manner.

Valley Beach doesn’t sell couple memberships, Maitland said.

If a man were living in an apartment or house with someone, Maitland said that man would have to buy a single membership — as would an unmarried man living with a woman who has children. In that case, she said the mother could have a family membership because she has children while the man would need to buy a single membership.

Valley Beach’s current policy is consistent with what the club has done in the past, Maitland said.

“This isn’t the first case of this. This is the first case that went boo-hoo about it,” she added.

The owner stressed that Valley Beach treats every member equally and with respect, regardless of their living or marriage situation.

"We have plenty of same-sex people,” Maitland said. “We treat them like anyone else.”

* * *

Here is the full Facebook correspondence between gay Norwalk resident Jeffrey Taylor and Kris Maitland, owner of Valley Beach Park, about a family membership. Each response remains unedited for spelling or punctuation.

Taylor: How much are memberships for a family of 4?

Maitland: A family of Husband, Wife & up to 3 of their children under the age of 19 is $265. If you have more than 5 in your family there will be an additional $20 charge per extra. Please let me know if you need anymore info.

Taylor: Ok. I just seen on your facebook where it says $255. Now what about same sex couple with two children? Do they qualify for a family membership?

Maitland: Im sorry, we do not consider that for our family membership. We will not deny you a membership, we do welcome everyone at Valley Beach, however the membership cannot be sold as a family. Are the children yours, his or both?

Taylor: So if we are legally married in another state and the law that requires Ohio to recognize same sex marriages would not qualify us as a family?

Maitland: No, we are a private Catholic swim club.

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