Sliding Down the Slippery Slope

The University of Virginia will allow same-sex partners of students and employees to join the university’s gyms. Gay and lesbian staff members had pushed the university for years to add the benefit, according to the Daily Progress.

Earlier this month, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell informed the university it could provide gym memberships to adults who live with an employee or student but are not their spouse. UVa had been reluctant to grant the benefit, citing a 2004 opinion by then-Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore that said the school should not grant benefits involving relationships not recognized by Virginia law.

Effective July 1, the DP reports, the Plus One program will allow a person living with a faculty or staff member to purchase a gym membership for $270 a year.

McDonnell’s ruling applies to “significant others” of the opposite sex, does it not? I can sympathise to some degree with the plight of gays, who do not possess the right to marry in Virginia. As long as they’re in a committed, long-term relationship, why shouldn’t they enjoy the same civil rights as heteros? But I have no particular sympathy for unmarried heteros. Why should the prerogatives and benefits of marriage be extended to a couple in a transient relationship just because they happen to be shacking up?

It looks like we’re stepping onto a very slippery slope here. What grounds are there to discriminate against anyone for any type of domestic arrangement? How long until others apply the gym-benefit precedent to health insurance and other benefits?

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12 responses to “Sliding Down the Slippery Slope”

  1. The solution would seem to be to provide some means for people to demonstrate that they’re actually a couple. Some sort of a court-recognized document, authorized by the state. I’d call it…oh…a “civil union.”


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Gee, how about just sticking with people who are actually married. The word “benefit” implies something special, something extra. If we want to encourage marriage, stop giving all the benefits of marriage away – to either non-married heteros or gays.

  3. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    If you have a marriage benefit, then limit it to married people. It should have some relationship to marriage as an institution.

    If you want to just give away benefits, because you have so much money that you can create a little socialist heaven on earth without actually killing jobs – and destroying capital, then give the benefit to anyone or anything you like. Include your significant animal friend. Just don’t call it ‘marriage or spouse’ because it has nothing to do with marriage.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    This is just a gym membership. VCU has something similar:

    Students, faculty, and alumni who join can invite one other person to join too. It could be just a friend you like to exercise with. What’s the big deal?

    The additional memberships are not a problem unless the facilities become too crowded. I joined the VCU gym as an alumni and I never had any problems (I used the Siegel Center). There were generally lots of students there (not too many older folks like me). For some machines, you have to sign up and the student in charge comes to tell you when it’s your turn. But meantime there’s a lot of other equipment you can use. It really is a nice benefit and a great opportunity that VCU alumni and faculty are not taking full advantage of.

    Becky Dale

  5. Jason Kenney Avatar
    Jason Kenney

    Becky, I’m at VCU now and I didn’t know about some of these perks. Great to know, thanks.

  6. Anonymous Avatar


    Watch that homophobic bigotry! Gay partners are not beagles or hamsters. Too bad you are on this site, you really cheapen it.

  7. Groveton Avatar

    How about nobody gets the gym benefit – not spouses, not same sex boyfriends, not anybody except the student / employee?

    Given the amount of howling from Charlottesville about their supposed financial challenges I’d have thought that they would be looking for ways to save money rather than spend more.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    On a lighter note …

    Here’s a web site capturing some of the sights and sounds of UVA from the general time frame that Jim Bacon and I were students there.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ah, we learn a bit more about the mysterious Groveton. He’s a UVa alumnus! Inquiring minds want to know: What year did he graduate?

  10. Groveton Avatar


    You were 1979 – yes?

  11. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I was 1975. By the time you reach our age, what’s six year’s difference?

  12. Groveton Avatar

    6 years? I could miss 6 years standing on my head.

    I think it was Shakespeare who wrote:

    And then one day you find
    Ten years have gone behind
    No one told you when to run
    You missed the starting gun

    OK – Maybe it was Pink Floyd. Hard to remember all that I learned (both inside the classroom and outside the classroom) back a Dear Ole UVA.

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