|American Airlines official boasts
of homosexual marketing efforts
By Ken Walker
WASHINGTON (BP)--Despite a past pledge to not back anti-family
movements, American Airlines markets to the homosexual community and actively supports
pro-homosexual causes.A spokesman for American's gay and lesbian marketing division
boasted of the airline's courtship of its homosexual constituency, in the April/May
edition of a homosexual TV news program, "In the Life," aired on 120 Public
Broadcasting System affiliates. Rick Cirillo said the airline is the first "Fortune
100" company to establish a department dedicated to the homosexual market.
"Gay people need to look at who is really out there
supporting the community and giving to the community," Cirillo told In the Life.
"We're that airline."American's financial contributions to the Human Rights
Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is one reason the
Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee dropped American as a recommended carrier
for the SBC's annual meeting.
American and Delta Airlines were announced Jan. 29 as offering
discounted fares for those flying to Atlanta for the June 15-16 SBC sessions and various
pre-SBC events.But the Executive Committee dropped its recommendation of American on Feb.
9, stating that the company had violated assurances it had given evangelical leaders last
year that it would not support movements destructive of the family and society.
According to "In the Life," American Airlines has
actively courted the homosexual community for the past five years. In the Life, a
pro-homosexual news and issues program, is aired in the nation's top 20 viewer markets,
among its 120 public television station affiliates, according to information on its
Internet site. Its financial backers include various individuals and the H. van Ameringen,
Lily Auchincloss and Michael Palm foundations, and the Mitchell Gold Co. The one-hour
April/May edition of In the Life spotlighted travel topics, with the lead story about
"gay" cruise ships. The other five features included a segment titled,
"Friendly Skies?" which lauded American's attempts to reach the homosexual
American's stance has earned it the designation of the official
airline for GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays, In the Life reported, noting that the company netted $177 million in
revenue last year from this market.
"An airline known for being something special in the air has taken off in its efforts
to land the gay and lesbian travel dollar," said producer Paul Mueller.
"American Airlines' efforts to reach the gay and lesbian consumer is more than just
selling tickets." Later, Mueller added, "American has constantly drawn
criticism" from evangelical and pro-family groups. "But even with the threat of
a nationwide boycott looming, American hasn't given in."
American was the first major airline to prohibit discrimination
based on sexual orientation and the first to initiate and sanction a gay and lesbian
employee group, Mueller said.
American wasn't always so favored in the homosexual community. Five years ago, a crew
ordered all the pillows taken off a flight carrying homosexuals from a rally in the
nation's capital, Mueller said.But Mark Chestnut, author of "The Gay Vacation
Guide," noted the company had turned around and become one of the most prominent
seekers of homosexuals' business and supporter of their social causes."It's
definitely in American Airlines' best interest to continue to support the gay and lesbian
community and organizations, as well as targeting the gay market," Chestnut told In
the Life. "Otherwise they wouldn't be doing it to such an extent."
A Dallas-area woman who went through three weeks of training last
year to become a flight attendant for American Airlines said homosexuality was a prevalent
part of the atmosphere at its training facility. She finally quit the program, saying
offensive behavior in many classes became too "gross." It included men often
making effeminate gestures or crude jokes with sexual overtones, said the woman, who asked
to remain anonymous. When such remarks continued throughout one day, she asked another
woman, "Is it me or are the homosexual overtones worse today?" "It's
horrible," the other trainee replied. Two days later she decided to quit. When she
explained why, a manager said, "I understand, but that's the way most of our people
Emphasizing she was treated very well by American, the woman said
nobody directly told her they were homosexual, nor was there any written policy supporting
Still, she backs the SBC's decision to shun the airline for convention travel. "I
think Christians or any organization has a right to boycott anyone they want to," she
said. "If you hit people's pocketbook, that's the only thing that will change them.
If you believe in something, it's our responsibility to ... stand up for what's
right." Among other airlines mentioned during the In the Life segment, Delta received
negative reviews for its reported link with Sandals resort in the Bahamas.
A homosexual Atlanta computer consultant featured on the program
said he had checked out a Delta-related vacation package on the Internet and discovered a
prize offered in a Sandals' travel contest was reserved for heterosexual couples. "As
competitive as the airline industry is today, I can't understand why an airline would
suggest, 'Hey, you know what? We're not sure we really want your business,'" he said.
"[They're saying], 'We'll gladly take your money, but we're happy to discriminate
against you on this particular thing.'"
Among other complaints homosexuals aired on the program: "domestic partner"
benefits aren't offered by any major airline, including American. Controversy between
American Airlines and evangelical leaders began in 1997 when six evangelical leaders,
including Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission,
appealed to the company in a full-page advertisement/open letter in The Washington Times
and Dallas-Fort Worth-area newspapers to abandon policies that "promote homosexual
The open letter to Robert Crandall, then-chairman of American,
expressed opposition to what it said were policies "that give preferential treatment
to homosexuals" and "marketing programs that advance the anti-family agenda of
militant homosexuals and sponsor events where dangerous and even illegal activities
occur." The letter, published June 4, 1997, in The Times, listed several examples,
-- officially sponsoring homosexual "circuit" parties that, according to The
Advocate, a homosexual magazine, are AIDS fund-raisers in various cities that include
open, illegal drug use and illicit sex.
-- contributing to homosexual organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign; Parents,
Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against
-- targeting the homosexual market, including providing discounts for "domestic
partners" and for travel connected with homosexual celebrations such as Cherry
Jubilee in Washington. (Although not cited in the ad, American was providing discounted
air travel to Gay and Lesbian Day June 7 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and was
listed as the airline of choice in an Out magazine ad for a party at Disney-MGM Studios
that night. Out is a homosexual magazine.)
-- instituting "sexual orientation" as a category, like race and gender,
deserving protection in the workplace.
In addition to Land, the open letter was signed by James
Dobson, president of Focus on the Family; Beverly LaHaye, chairman of Concerned Women for
America; Don Wildmon, president of American Family Association; James Kennedy, president
of Coral Ridge Ministries; and Gary Bauer, then-president of Family Research Council. At
the time, American Airlines issued a brief written statement in response:
"We are very sorry that these groups disagree with our company's policy of treating
all customers and employees with kindness and respect."
In subsequent negotiations, however, an accord was reached. But,
in the February 1999 issue of the American Family Association Journal came the headline,
"American Airlines Breaks Word." "American Airlines as a company looked us
right in the eyes and promised to remain neutral on the issue of the gay agenda,"
said Allen Wildmon, AFA's director of public relations. In light of American's recent
support of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign,
however, Wildmon said, "It has become quite clear now that American had no intention
of working with us." Bill Merrell, Executive Committee vice president for convention
relations, in announcing that American Airlines was being dropped as a recommended carrier
for the SBC annual meeting, noted the company had given $50,000 to the media awards of the
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, "which incidentally was nominating the
play 'Corpus Christi' for an honor. That play depicts Christ as engaging in serial
homosexuality with the disciples. That is nothing less than blasphemous." Merrill
also noted, "American Airlines gave another $25,000 to the Human Rights Campaign
[HRC], whose agenda includes legalizing same-sex marriage, removing legal obstacles to the
adoption of children by homosexuals and granting special minority rights protection to
homosexuals in housing and employment."
Art Toalston & Tom Strode contributed to this article.
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