Airlines Support Marriage Equality

Among the airlines that support marriage equality, United Airlines, Delta and American may be the most vocal.

United Airlines’ CEO issued a statement in connection with an announcement detailing the airline’s plans to support its employees in commemorating Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Month.

The airline is proud to stand up for marriage equality in the United States, says United's chairman, president and CEO Jeff Smisek.

“At United, we foster an inclusive and diverse culture, where every employee is accepted, valued, respected and treated fairly,” Smisek says in a release. “While fully inclusive equal employment, workplace benefits and non-discrimination policies have been part of our company's culture for many years, it is time for our nation to have a uniform marriage rule that gives equal dignity to same-sex couples.”



The affirmation is timely in that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the marriage equality issue by month’s end. The airline joined 378 other U.S. corporations in signing an amicus brief in March urging the Supreme Court to support same-sex marriage. Other airlines signing the brief included Delta, Alaska, American, Horizon and JetBlue.

American Airlines announced on its Twitter feed that it would join the brief. American has long been an advocate of gay, lesbian and LGBT rights. It was the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits in 2000 and offers equal health benefits and travel privileges to same-sex partners of LGBT employees. The airline currently has a rainbow backdrop for its Twitter icon.

Delta Air Lines recently assumed the healthcare payroll tax burden for employees with same-sex domestic partners in the remaining states that do not have marriage equality. 

"While this issue remains unsettled on a national level, Delta's commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect is rooted deeply in the airline's values and culture," said Joanne Smith, Delta's executive vice president and chief human resources officer, in a statement. "By providing equality in this critically important area of benefit costs for employees with same-sex domestic partners, we will continue to build a great place to work."

United has been committed to equality for a long time, says Henry H. Harteveldt, founder/travel industry analyst of the San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group.

“The airline has generally scored well in the Human Rights Campaign’s corporate equality index,” Harteveldt tells Marketing Daily. “This move is arguably more about United’s commitment to its employees than its passengers.”

United has an extremely diverse work force, and operates hubs in cities that have large LGBT populations, including New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, and San Francisco.

“I believe United took this stand to show, decisively and conclusively, to its employees that the airline’s commitment to non-discrimination in the workforce is one it’s very serious about,” Harteveldt says.

United and its employees will commemorate LGBT Pride Month by marching in parades, sponsoring events and hosting celebrations at destinations across the airline's global route network.

Throughout June, United employees will take part in pride festivals and parades. The company will also host celebrations for customers and employees in Chicago; Denver; Houston; Newark, New Jersey; and San Francisco, as well as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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