Carrboro mayor opposes YMCA merger over LGBT policies

Carrboro's Chilton warns against 'a really big mistake'

Staff writersDecember 24, 2011 

— Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton is the latest Orange County leader opposing a possible merger of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA with the YMCA of the Triangle over the latter's policies on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

In a letter to the local YMCA, Chilton concedes the agency could benefit from the Triangle Y's financial support but says that's not worth becoming part of an organization that does not treat gay members and employees like everyone else.

"You need to hear this: You are poised to make a really big mistake," he wrote.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA voted Dec. 14 to form a committee to discuss how and if the two organizations could share resources. One option is a management services agreement in which the YMCA of the Triangle would run the local one. Another is merging into one organization.

If the two merge, the local YMCA would have to adopt the YMCA of the Triangle's anti-discrimination policy which currently does not specifically protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said Jennifer Trapani, Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA board chairwoman.

"I certainly have a concern for the LGBT community," she said. "I am sympathetic, and I believe in including them. ... But trying to weigh everything, it's a huge burden."

Dabney Grinnan, chairwoman-elect of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA board, says the agency is taking time to make the best decisions.

"We are well aware of how much our community values the rights of the LGBTQ community," she wrote this week in the online forum OrangePolitics .org .

Earlier this year, the local YMCA extended its nondiscrimination policy to groups that meet on its premises, forcing the local Boy Scouts to find a new home because of the Scouts' ban on openly gay leaders and members.

"It may be that the right choice for our Y is to stand strong and reject working with Y of the Triangle because they don't have, in their employment policies, a nondiscrimination policy for LGBTQ applicants," Grinnan wrote. "That choice, though, may mean not being able to offer afterschool tutoring to struggling students in Siler City or being able to expand our anti-child abuse training program. ... Our budget picture for 2012 is much darker than we would like."

Efforts on Friday to reach the director and spokeswoman for the YMCA of the Triangle were unsuccessful.

Chilton is the latest public official to publicly comment on the YMCA talks.

Carrboro Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle, her partner Alicia Stemper and their two children have belonged to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA since 2004. Lavelle said in a letter to the YMCA that she hopes any merger takes place "on our terms, and that we retain our inclusive policies."

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board member Mia Day Burroughs sees the local YMCA's decision to form a study committee as the first step toward an inevitable merger. "In the end, if the employees of this Y are covered by the employment policies of Y of the Triangle, and the Y of the Triangle doesn't protect its LGBT employees from discrimination, each member of this Y's Board will have been responsible for making that happen," she said.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Penny Rich has said she would vote to end town funding of the local YMCA if its nondiscrimination policy no longer covered sexual orientation.

In his letter, Chilton said the YMCA of the Triangle either believes gay people are pedophiles or is trying to appease those who believe that.

"In fact, accommodating homophobes might really be worse than being a homophobe," Chilton writes. "As Dr. King so beautifully put it in the Letter from the Birmingham Jail: '[T]he Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate.'

"Accommodating prejudice is not born of ignorance, it is born of a lack of principle," he added. "I know you are not ignorant, and I strongly believe that you are principled. So I urge you to stand behind your own principles."

Douglas: 919-932-2008

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