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National LGBT Bar Recognizes Advocates for Equality

by Angela Kolter
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Feb 16, 2013

Commemorating 25 years of advocacy for the LGBT community, on Feb. 7 the National LGBT Bar Association honored the American Airlines Legal Department with the Out & Proud Corporate Counsel Award for their outstanding commitment to successful diversity practices. AA provides exemplary leadership in the continuing drive for corporate accountability in equality and inclusion policies.

"American Airlines is truly the industry leader in LGBT diversity and practices. People will say they care about diversity, but are they walking the walk," National LGBT Bar Association Executive Director D'Arcy Kemnitz told EDGE. She noted that American Airlines Legal Department deserves the award for meeting the challenge of "a perfect storm of factors."

In one of five national awards receptions, downtown Dallas glittered below while representatives from the National LGBT Bar Association, American Airlines Legal Department and an array of gay and straight allies, colleagues and honorees gathered in Reunion Tower's highest perch to celebrate the numerous contributions made by American Airlines to improve the lives of LGBT employees, customers and community members.

"Not only do they have the policies internally in place that show they are really interested in LGBT issues and equality, but they also possess the willingness to reach out and do all the extra hard work," said Kemnitz.

The National LGBT Bar Association presents the Out & Proud Corporate Counsel Award (CCA) to legal professionals who promote equality in word and deed to foster a more accepting, inclusive and just workplace. The Out & Proud CCA receptions provide an opportunity for LGBT legal professionals to pay tribute to colleagues who have committed themselves to increasing awareness of LGBT equality and fairness and have achieved extraordinary success in reaching diversity goals.

American Airlines Senior Vice President and General Counsel Gary Kennedy accepted the award on behalf of American Airlines Legal Department. Kennedy praised the LGBT Bar Association in his brief acceptance stating, "You do great work. It’s important work, and we thank you," to a vigorous round of applause from attorneys and allies surrounding the podium.

Sr. Attorney Melissa Romig thanked Kennedy for his "leadership and vision." She applauded him and American Airlines Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Virasb Vahidi as "the architects of American Airlines inclusive practices."

American Airlines Nets Perfect HRC Score Every Year

To Romig, American is not merely an employer, but an ally in the pursuit of fair and just business practices that affect the daily lives of LGBT Americans.

"We are thrilled that the LGBT Bar Association has recognized our relationship with them and with the LGBT community," she told EDGE. Equality and fair practices are "very important to American, and I am so proud as a lesbian lawyer to have American as my employer."

Fort Worth-based American Airlines achieved international recognition in 2013 for garnering a perfect 100 percent rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI) for the eleventh consecutive year. One of only nine national companies ever to receive a perfect score, AA has done so every year since the award’s inception, reflecting their extraordinary commitment to the needs of the LGBT community.

"We have to be cognizant of diversity whether its nationality, race, gender, or LGBT, and we put our money where our mouth is," said Romig, speaking to why diversity and inclusion is so important to America Airlines. "AA’s eleventh perfect rating is something that we’re very proud of."

American Airlines has proven its commitment to continually raise self-expectations for meeting diversity milestones. Romig told EDGE, "As the HRC has identified issues that are important to its membership, we understand that these issues are important to our employees as well, and we meet those responsibilities. There is no question in my mind from the senior leadership down to the frontline employee, we understand that LGBT employees are part of our family, and if we need to do things to give them parity, we are going to do it. I think that’s historical to today, and I’m so proud to work for a company that does that."

AA’s 100 percent score speaks to the company’s evolving inclusion policies for transgender employees in line with the LGBT Bar Association’s ongoing commitment to the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. A 100 percent score on the 2013 CEI required companies to offer transgender inclusive healthcare coverage.

"They are always out there in the community, doing the work year after year after year," said Kemnitz, praising American Airlines for their long-standing commitment to the LGBT community.

From her initial role of volunteer with the National LGBT Bar in 1999 to becoming their first executive director in 2004, Kemnitz said she has always known about American, and their work to always do their very best to advocate for the LGBT community.

American Airlines is not only recognized in the annual HRC Corporate Equality Index report, but is also listed in HRC’s 2013 "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality," one of only four Texas companies to currently receive this honor.

Upcoming events for the National LGBT Bar Association (BA) include the 25th Annual Lavender Law Conference in San Francisco on Aug. 22-24.

The National LGBT BA was formed by a core group of advocates in 1988 to foster dialogue in the legal community concerning the needs of the nation’s LGBT community. In 1992 the association became an official affiliate of the American Bar Association, and continues to advise its Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The NLGBT BA acts as a timely educational resource to the legal community on sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender law and policies relating to gender expression.

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  • , 2013-02-16 19:13:44

    Great story! Thanks American Airlines for being a leader in equality and fairness!

  • , 2013-10-07 16:16:59

    Too bad Melissa Romig is protecting senior managers who have been the cause of anti-gay bias fine against American Airlines

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