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Originally published February 25, 2014 at 4:39 PM | Page modified February 26, 2014 at 3:05 PM

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Airlines speak out against Arizona bill aimed at gays

Delta, Southwest and American have called on Arizona’s governor to veto the “refuse-service” bill.

Bloomberg News and The Seattle Times

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Some major travel companies, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta, have called on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto a bill permitting businesses to refuse service on religious grounds, a measure that opponents say is meant to allow discrimination against gays.

The measure was passed by the state legislature, and is awaiting the governor’s signing or veto of the bill by Saturday morning. It also has prompted some tourists to cancel reservations for Arizona trips and companies to say they would locate elsewhere if it became law.

Delta Air Lines issued a statement Tuesday condemning the legislation.

“As a global values-based company, Delta Air Lines is proud of the diversity of its customers and employees, and is deeply concerned about proposed measures in several states, including Georgia and Arizona, that would allow businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. If passed into law, these proposals would cause significant harm to many people and will result in job losses. They would also violate Delta’s core values of mutual respect and dignity ... Delta strongly opposes these measures and we join the business community in urging state officials to reject these proposals.”

American Airlines also protested the bill. “There is genuine concern throughout the business community that this bill, if signed into law, would jeopardize all that has been accomplished so far,” Doug Parker, chief executive officer of Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines, wrote in a letter to Brewer on Thursday. He said that it has the potential to reduce the desire of companies to relocate in the state and to repel convention business.

Some individual travelers and other groups are protesting the proposed legislation. The Phoenix-based Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association received hundreds of calls and emails from visitors planning to travel to the state on business, or for leisure, said Debbie Johnson, CEO of the 500-member group.

“People said they were either canceling trips or they would never visit again if the governor didn’t veto the bill,” said Johnson. “We’ve also gotten messages from our members saying, ‘Hey, we got hit with numerous cancellations.’”

Southwest Airlines joined the chorus of companies voicing strong opinions about the right-to-refuse-service legislation on Brewer’s desk,

“We believe in an inclusive environment that embraces and values each customer and employee,” said Whitney Eichinger, a spokeswoman for the Dallas-based company. “We could never support legislation that runs counter to our values of respect for each person and our strong nondiscrimination policy.”

After the Republican-controlled state Senate approved the measure Feb. 21, businesses and gay rights groups lobbied the governor to veto it.

Cupertino, California-based Apple, which is opening a facility this month in Mesa employing 700 people making a material used to strengthen iPhone screens, also asked Brewer to kill the bill.

Arizona’s bill is similar to measures proposed in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi and Kansas in response to the gay- marriage movement. Seventeen states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized same-sex unions. .

“This legislation will likely have profound negative effects on our business community for years to come,” wrote James Lundy, chairman of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, and Barry Broome, its CEO, in a Feb. 21 letter to Brewer.

“With major events approaching in the coming year, including Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona will be the center of the world’s stage,” they added. “This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts.”

A National Football League spokesman said the organization was following the issue.

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