- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) - She didn’t walk in looking for a fight. But after inquiring about membership at Amarillo Town Club on Valentine’s Day, Katie Roberts and a growing number of supporters have publicly joined the national debate pitting religious freedom against rights for same-sex couples.

While touring the Town Club’s southwest Amarillo gym facilities with a co-worker, Roberts asked about a couples membership plan for her and fiancee Amanda Parrack. She claims she was denied membership because of her sexual orientation.

“The guy said we had to have a marriage license for our couples membership, and it has to be from Texas,” Roberts told the Amarillo Globe-News (http://bit.ly/1ce3dVP). “Well, we all know same-sex marriages are illegal in the state of Texas. I feel like he was just avoiding telling me that they didn’t recognize same-sex couples, but instead, I feel like he just lied to me about the policy.”

So Roberts turned to Facebook to vent her frustration over how she was treated by Town Club staff.

Comments poured in from dozens of same-sex couples who said they too were denied a Town Club couples or family membership. So Roberts started a petition Feb. 19 asking the gym and its parent company, Baptist Community Services, to “allow same-sex couples to purchase couples and family memberships and increase professionalism with policy deliveries.”

About 4,800 supporters have signed Roberts‘ petition.

Town Club Vice President Steve Halsey wouldn’t discuss Roberts‘ claim and said, “in light of the fact that it concerns membership services, we have no comment.”

In addition to the Town Club, Baptist Community Services owns Park Central and The Arbors, both retirement communities, and 20 percent of BSA Health System.

Roberts said she was unaware of the Town Club’s religious affiliation at the time of the tour.

When asked whether he was aware of the accusations made against the Town Club, Halsey said, “They are just that, accusations. No comment.”

Steve Dalrymple, CEO and president of Baptist Community Services, would not say whether the Town Club has a policy concerning same-sex couples and families, or comment on any other questions regarding the accusations.

Dalrymple did explain the couples and family memberships.

“There isn’t a couples membership,” he said. “We have a married couples and we have a family membership, which can be a single family and a child. That’s just a fact.”

At the Town Club’s website, amarillotownclub.com, a couples membership is listed for married couples or a parent with a minor child, and a family membership is for married couples or a parent and their children under the age of 22 years who are living in the same household.

When asked if married couples are required to show proof of their marriage, Dalrymple said he was “not going to comment on that because I can’t even speak to that. I don’t know.”

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