Aerospace giant Boeing (NYSE:BA) has declared it will not honor the law in the state of Washington, and will deny pension survivor benefits to same-sex married couples, because it can. Boeing makes the popular 737 and 747 commercial jet airplanes, military aircraft and tankers, and much more.
The Governor of the state of Washington signed into law a bill extending marriage to same-sex couples, and the people just reaffirmed their desire to endorse marriage equality via an Election Day ballot. Boeing’s hiding behind the skirts of the federal government — one of if not its largest client– exposes why President Obama must sign an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination within the federal government and among all federal contractors, and why DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 that bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages — must be repealed.
Boeing, a $55.6 billion corporation that makes a great deal of its profit via your tax dollars, specifically “told union negotiators that it intends to deny pension survivor benefits to same-sex married couples,” according to a report at Dan Savage’s Slog:
Representing 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, Ray Goforth is executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001. He was sitting at the negotiation table today—as part of ongoing talks over retirement benefits—and says the company’s position “says to employees that they can be discriminated against based on who they are.”
Goforth explains that his union has long sought equal pension benefits for same-sex domestic partners, to no avail. But since voters approved same sex marriage—establishing parity with married straight couples—Goforth re-framed the proposal to apply to his union’s gay Boeing employees who wed. “Their answer was that they had no intention of granting pension survivor benefits to legally married same-sex couples because they didn’t have to,” Goforth explains. Boeing representatives told him that pensions are governed by federal law, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, thereby trumping the state law on the matter.
“We were profoundly disappointed to see that they would use a loophole to engage in institutionalized discrimination,” Goforth says.
Let’s repeat that: “pensions are governed by federal law, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, thereby trumping the state law on the matter.”
Boeing, a federal contractor, could be forced to include legally-married same-sex couples in its pension survivor benefits policies, and, in fact, could be forced to treat all legally married same-sex couples as it treats legally married opposite-sex couples if President Obama signed an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination.
And, to take it one step further, if DOMA were dead, if it were, actually when it is, repealed, Boeing will have to treat legally married same-sex couples as it treats legally married opposite-sex couples.
Further, if we had an inclusive ENDA, this might be covered under that as well.
In short, Boeing is the perfect example of why LGBT people and married same-sex couples need equal protection under both state and federal law.
Being able to be legally married is a great step forward, but if corporations have the right to not recognize state law, then our marriages and our existence are still that of second-class citizens.
The LGBT community needs to continue our push on the White House for an executive order at the federal level banning workplace discrimination for LGBT people, and continue our push for both a repeal of DOMA and for passage of ENDA.
And Boeing needs to be aware they are now going to be perceived as anti-LGBT, until they follow what eventually will be the law.
W. James McNerney, Jr., Boeing’s Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer, made $22,958,300 last year.
Surely Boeing can afford to treat its LGBT employees equally?
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