March 12 2009 12:00 AM

The Lansing YMCA changes its policy to let unmarried couples, including gay couples, receive a family discount.

After an outcry this past summer by a lesbian couple denied a family discount rate at the YMCA of Lansing, the Y has changed its policy to allow unmarried couples to receive the discount.

Marketing Director Linda Wilkins confirmed Tuesday that the YMCA board on Jan. 26 approved the change, which will go into effect March 1. Now, one adult member of a family can join the Y for $52 and his or her partner for $22. Under the old policy, both would have had to pay $52.

“We changed criteria and now instead of having to be related by marriage or by a blood relationship, it will be a relationship by household,” Wilkins said.

Sarah Himes contacted media outlets this summer after she sought the spousal rate for her partner of four years.

“That’s fantastic news,” Himes said Tuesday. “I’m glad that the board reviewed their policy and came to a conclusion.”

Wilkins said that the policy change was not in response to Himes’ outcry, which incited a petition drive to change the policy by the Lansing Association for Human Rights, but because the Y found that 10 percent of couples living in the tri-county area are unmarried, and thus a large part of the community was underserved.

The Y will not ask the circumstances of a relationship, just proof that both partners live at the same address. The policy will cover all five of the YMCA branches in the Lansing area.

Although the Y is saying it did not change the policy to meet the specific needs of gay couples, who cannot marry in Michigan, Himes said she is still pleased that the policy was changed.

“I think it’s great that they changed the policy, even if they don’t use the words that we’re talking about,” Himes said.

And although Himes says she would want to support an organization that changed its policy after community outcry, she said that she’s going to have to consult with her partner before going out and getting a Y membership.