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Travel Companies Urge Arizona Governor to Veto Religious Freedom Act

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A growing chorus of prominent travel companies, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest, and Marriott International, are pressing Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto Senate Bill 1062, the recently passed legislation that would allow businesses to deny service for religious reasons. The bill is meant to protect religious freedom, but would effectively legalize discrimination of religious minorities and LGBT individuals.

Both American Airlines and Marriott International—joined by the Arizona and Greater Phoenix Chambers of Commerce—have written letters (see here and here) to Governor Brewer outlining their concerns over the bill. Delta issued a statement yesterday, available here.

Marriott's regional Vice President Steve Hart and Director of Government Affairs Thomas Maloney believe that if enacted, SB 1062 would “undermine—or worse, counteract” the brand's efforts to boost revenue, particularly from business travelers.

Similarly, American Airlines CEO Douglas Parker wrote that the bill “has the very real potential of...reducing the desire of businesses to locate in Arizona and depressing the travel and tourism component of the economy if both convention traffic and individual tourists decide to go elsewhere.”

While the companies stress the potential economic impact of the bill, they are also mindful of the human toll. Such a law “would also violate Delta's core values of mutual respect and dignity,” the airline said in its statement. American's Parker emphasizes the airline's diverse group of employees who may be adversely affected, and Marriott's Hart and Maloney promise to prohibit discrimination regardless of the formal laws. “Still,” they write, “at a fundamental level we need state law to also reflect these values of inclusion.”

And Governor Brewer? She has until Friday to make her decision. Here's hoping she takes the concerns of the travel industry—including the world's largest airline and third-largest hotel group—seriously.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08

Photo credit: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy 

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