American Airlines to ground marketing plans for homosexuals

by Dwayne Hastings , posted Friday, March 27, 1998 (20 years ago)

DALLAS (BP)-- After a year-long campaign to dissuade American Airlines from its aggressive support of homosexual organizations and activities, pro-family leaders announced March 23 the airline would back off its pro-homosexual marketing strategy.

Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, who worked with other evangelical groups in pressuring American Airlines President Robert Crandall to modify his company's marketing strategy, commended the airline for their responsiveness to the group's concerns.

Pro-family groups charged the air carrier with traveling "a family unfriendly path" in February 1997, citing the company's sponsorship of homosexual "pride" events, its financial support of homosexual advocacy groups and its "aggressive pursuit of the gay travel market."

Crandall agreed to halt American's sponsorship of homosexual parties and refrain from targeting and promoting the homosexual travel market and to instead maintain a position of neutrality. The airline currently advertises discount fares for "domestic partners" and for "gay cruise partners."

American Airlines officials agreed to:

-- promote itself to every customer constituency as an outstanding air carrier, while maintaining a strictly neutral stance with respect to lifestyle;

-- refrain from open advocacy or endorsement of organizations with active political agendas;

-- advertise and promote its service in those media it deems appropriate.

Both sides in the dispute acknowledge that the company may continue to advertise in a generic way in publications which cater to the homosexual community.

In remarks on the SBC ethics agency's national radio program, "For Faith & Family," Land said The Disney Company -- the target of economic action from several organizations including Southern Baptists -- could take a lesson from the air carrier. "If the Disney corporation had responded to our concerns with them early on as American Airlines did, there probably would not have been a call to boycott." He said boycotts are always "a measure of last resort."

In a Feb. 18, 1997, letter to Crandall, Land joined executives from the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association, Coral Ridge Ministries and Focus on the Family in criticizing "American's support for homosexual activism."

The letter warned the company's embrace of a homosexual activist marketing strategy would damage its customer base: "Corporate acceptance of the gay rights agenda would also alienate millions of American's customers who are pro-family. Most people with traditional values do not adopt the tactics of disruption that the gay militants use, but they do vote with their pocketbooks."

Reacting to the letter last year, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called the SBC agency and other evangelical groups "radical religious hate groups" seeking to "ground" American Airlines and urged its patrons to write the airlines and "let them know you support their work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

While taking aim at "the extension of undue privileges" stemming from pressure from a militant ideological agenda, the company's critics said homosexual employees should not be denied "any (personnel) benefits rightly due" them.

And Land emphasized concerns about American's support and sponsorship of homosexual events was separate from the company's right to sell tickets to whomever it pleased.

"I would protest if American or any airline stopped selling tickets to homosexuals," Land said. "That would be discrimination. Homosexuals have a right to fly just like anybody else."

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