Alaska Airlines sued for allegedly firing 2 flight attendants over Equality Act criticism

An Alaska Airlines plan rides on a runway.
An Alaska Airlines plan rides on a runway. | Reuters/Jason Redmond

Two flight attendants are suing Alaska Airlines, accusing the company of firing them for questioning the airline's official support for the proposed LGBT anti-discrimination bill the Equality Act.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Marli Brown and Lacey Smith accused Alaska Airlines of religious discrimination. The lawsuit also lists the flight attendants' union, the Association of Flight Attendants.

According to the complaint, Brown and Smith were terminated after questioning Alaska Airlines' support for the Equality Act on an internal employee message board.

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"Alaska Airlines responded to Marli and Lacey's posts by immediately removing Marli and Lacey from their flight schedules, terminating their employment, and disparaging their religious expression and beliefs as 'discriminatory,' 'hateful,' and 'offensive,'" read the complaint, in part.

"When Marli and Lacey — both union members — faced termination because of their religious practices and beliefs, [their union] failed to effectively represent them, ignoring civil rights laws prohibiting both employers and unions from discriminating on the basis of religion."

The Christian Post reached out to Alaska Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants for comment on the lawsuit. Responses are pending. 

Stephanie Taub, senior counsel with the First Liberty Institute, which is representing the flight attendants, said in a statement Tuesday that this was "a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws."

"Alaska Airlines 'canceled' Lacey and Marli because of their religious beliefs, flagrantly disregarding federal civil rights laws that protect people of faith from discrimination," Taub said.

"'Woke' corporations like Alaska Airlines think that they do not have to follow the law and can fire employees if they simply don't like their religious beliefs."

Last August, First Liberty filed two "Charge of Discrimination" complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Alaska Airlines on behalf of Smith and Brown.

In March, the EEOC sent "Notices of Right to Sue" to the plaintiffs, paving the way for the lawsuit filed earlier this week.

Alaska Airlines is one of around 500 businesses that have declared their support for the passage of the legislation and is listed as part of the Human Rights Campaign's Business Coalition for the Equality Act.

Overseen by the prominent LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, the Business Coalition believes that the United States needs "a federal standard that treats all employees the same."

"Launched in March 2016, the 520 member companies of HRC's Business Coalition for the Equality Act have operations in all 50 states, headquarters spanning 33 states and a combined $7.4 trillion in revenue, and employ over 15.4 million people in the United States," stated the HRC's coalition page.

"The Equality Act creates clear, consistent protections to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment ensuring that LGBTQ employees are hired, fired, and promoted based on their performance."

The proposed legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year by a vote that was primarily along party lines. However, it has stalled in the U.S. Senate.

Critics of the Equality Act have argued that the measure would marginalize religious groups and others who hold moral objections to homosexuality and transgender ideology.

"It cancels by name specific provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, putting religious employers such as churches and private religious schools, hospitals, adoption agencies, and others at severe risk of lawsuits," wrote Robert Netzly, the CEO of Inspire Investing, in a column for The Christian Post last year.

"Equality should be for all people, including female athletes who want an equal playing field when they compete, people of faith who have moral convictions about heterosexuality, and female prison inmates who should not be forced to share a cell with violent felons convicted for preying upon women."

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