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Northwest refuses
companion ticket for gay employee

Northwest refuses
companion ticket for gay employee

A ticket won by a gay employee of Northwest Airlines cannot be used by his domestic partner, the airline says.

After gay Northwest Airlines employee Rob Anders won a pair of tickets at a company holiday party, he planned to use the tickets to fly himself and his partner of 15 years from California to Florida to visit his 89-year-old mother for a family reunion last month. But airline officials told him he could not use the other ticket for his partner because the two were not married. "I felt terrible," Anders said. "I thought what they were doing was unfair."

Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has stepped in on Anders's behalf, accusing the airline of violating California's antidiscrimination laws and urging the company to change its policies. "What happened to Mr. Anders and his partner violates California law and is clearly discriminatory," said Christine P. Sun, ACLU of Southern California staff attorney. "We are asking that the company not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status and honor Mr. Anders's ticket for him and a companion."

A representative from Northwest Airlines told Anders that the airline would recognize only a spouse, another airline employee, or a dependent child as a companion. The representative specifically stated Northwest Airlines would not recognize a registered domestic partner as a spouse for the purpose of the tickets.

In its letter to Northwest, the ACLU said that the Unruh Civil Rights Act, part of California law, "mandates 'full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever' without regard to sexual orientation or marital status." "Because same-sex couples who wish to marry cannot currently do so under California law, using marriage as a criterion discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation," Sun said. "Northwest's policy also discriminates on the basis of marital status because it does not permit unmarried heterosexual individuals to bring the companion of their choice."

Anders, who is 60, has lived in Southern California since 1971. He and his partner, Pat, registered as domestic partners in California in 2004. Anders is part of many local civic groups and has traveled the world. (Advocate.com)

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