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The Curious Case of the Missing Signature

The Curious Case of the Missing Signature

The Curious Case of the Missing Signature

Why Southwest Airlines is 'missing' from a court filing supporting same-sex marriage — and does it matter?

On March 5, 2015, global law firm Morgan Lewis filed a friend-of-the-court brief, otherwise known as an amicus curiae, with the Supreme Court in favor of same sex marriage. In total, 379 corporations signed the brief including a number of large travel/hospitality entities like Orbitz Worldwide, Inc., Marriott International, Inc., Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, LLC; as well as many of the major U.S. airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Airlines, Horizon Air Industries, Inc., JetBlue Airways Corporation and United Air Lines, Inc.

One name that was curiously absent, however? Southwest Airlines.

An amicus curiae, a document submitted to the court from a party or parties not directly affiliated with the case but with information that may be considered useful to the court, in part, stated that “state laws that prohibit or decline to recognize marriages between same-sex couples hamper employers efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible in those states. Our successes depend upon the welfare and morale of all employees, without distinction.” A similar amicus curiae was signed by over 300 conservative and center-right Republicans including former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman (who organized the brief), former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, and billionaire mega-donor David Koch.

So, where was Southwest’s signature? When OutTraveler asked the airline for comment, a spokesperson for the company replied:

“Typically, we do not take a stance on political matters. Southwest Airlines currently complies with applicable law on marriage equality issues regarding benefits and has been a leader on the issue—by providing more and better benefits than legally mandated—long before the changes brought on by recent court cases.”

In recent years, Southwest Airlines has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community. According to the LGBT Outreach section of the company’s website, it is the official airline of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA), and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). The airline has spent ad dollars in gay and lesbian media outlets, sponsored numerous LGBT causes, and are Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. Additionally, Southwest scores a 90 on the Human Rights Campaign Companies - Buyer’s Guide.

If actions do, in fact, speak louder than words, than the impact of these initiatives should certainly outweigh a signature on an arguably symbolic legal filing. (It seems unlikely that Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Alito or Thomas will be swayed from their previously established anti-equality positions on a highly publicized topic because Coca-Cola and the New England Patriots have come out in support, wouldn't it?) Yet still, for a company who actively courts the LGBT community, it remains curious why something like adding its name to a legal brief — an action that presumably requires minimal effort and seems, at this point, to be marginally controversial — would not have happened.

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Bryan Van Gorder