Co-chairs say airline’s long history of support for LGBT community clinched decision
Black Tie Dinner co-chairs Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold announced Thursday, April 1, that the 2010 Elizabeth Birch Equality Award will go to American Airlines.
The award — presented each year, except 2007, since 2003 at the fundraising dinner — recognizes those who have had a positive national impact on LGBT equality, Guillard said.
"The board [of Black Tie] begins the discussion early in January on who will receive the award, and this year we realized early on that we had a truly outstanding nominee right here in our area, who also happens to be the Metroplex’s largest employer," Guillard said.
"American Airlines has received a 100 on [the Human Rights Campaign's] Corporate Equality Index every year since the index started, and they have just done so much to support our community. Once we began talking about it, we realized it was the obvious choice," he said.
Guillard said the LGBT community in North Texas sometimes takes American Airlines for granted "because they are right here in our neighborhood and we see them engaged with our community in so many different venues. It is clearly part of their strategy not only to be great corporate citizens, but to meet our needs as their customers and employees, too."
Arnold stressed American Airline’s contributions to the LGBT community both locally and nationally.
"They have such a far-reaching impact on our community, and you see them there for every organization that supports our community across the nation. They don’t just talk the talk at American Airlines, they walk the walk. And we are really honored to be able to recognize them this way," she said.
Arnold noted that American Airlines is Black Tie’s "longest-standing sponsor," but said that wasn’t a factor in choosing the company for the Birch award.
"We did it because of their support for everyone in the community, not just because they support us," Arnold said.
Guillard added, "American Airline’s sponsorship of Black Tie Dinner is just one manifestation of their outreach to and support of the community as a whole."
In a prepared statement, American Airlines officials noted that the company was the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits for its employees (in 2000) and offers equal health and travel benefits to partners and spouses of all its employees, regardless of sexual orientation.
American was also the first major airline to include sexual orientation (in 1993) and gender identity (2001) in its workplace nondiscrimination policies; the first to have a company-recognized LGBT employee resource group; and the first to launch a dedicated LGBT-specific Web site, including a comprehensive LGBT event calendar.
American officials also noted that their airline was the first Fortune 100 company to establish an entire gay and lesbian national marketing and sales team, and that the airline is a founding corporate member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
American Airlines has earned a number of awards from LGBT organizations, and donates to numerous LGBT organizations and events, including being the official airline to more than 30 LGBT organizations.
Black Tie Dinner officials announced American Airlines as the Birch Award winner during the Fort Worth Kick-Off Party for this year’s dinner on Thursday, April 1. In a prepared announcement released Thursday, American Airlines’ Vice President of Diversity and Leadership Strategies Denise Lynn thanked Black Tie for the honor.
"There is no greater embrace than that given by your hometown, and receiving the Elizabeth Birch Award will only magnify the pride we take in being part of the inclusive and welcoming fabric that makes of the people of Dallas and Fort Worth and the lives of all our employees," Lynn said.
This is the second time the Birch Award has been given to a company instead of an individual. The 2004 award went to The Showtime Networks, and Showtime officials attended that year’s dinner to accept.
Guillard and Arnold said this week that American Airlines officials will be on hand at the 2010 dinner, set for Nov. 6 in the Lone Star Ballroom of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 2, 2010.