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Civil Union Act Compels Change of Heart at Four Seasons

BLOOMINGTON – Four Seasons Fitness Center decided to change its long-standing policy of offering family memberships solely to heterosexual, married partners. Starting July 1st, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) partners who enter into civil unions will also be eligible to take advantage of the discounted family membership option.

According to Four Seasons employees, the Board of Directors chose to change the policy to reflect the new direction taken by the state of Illinois. In January, Illinois Governor Quinn signed into law the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (“Civil Union Act”), which gives to LGBT couples many of the rights afforded to heterosexual, married couples. The Civil Union Act takes effect today, June 1st.

Prior to this year, Four Seasons had faced pressure from gym members and area residents to change its policy. However, with the passage of the new Civil Union Act, Four Seasons faced even more pressure from the local community.

There has been some question if the Civil Union Act would apply to the policies of private companies such as Four Seasons.

The state law grants couples in civil unions “the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.” This includes the range of legal rights afforded to married, heterosexual couples. But, as one example, Lambda Legal of Illinois says that LGBT couples who work for private employers might not always be granted, in practice, the same private health care insurance rights as married couples, at least not without a fight. (All public employees in a civil union are guaranteed under the new law health care benefits and pension rights for their spouses.)

The Four Seasons policy change is a victory for progressive forces in Bloomington-Normal and statewide. The fair implementation of the Civil Union Act will be determined by the political action of individuals and organizations at the ground level.

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