AAA South announced that it’s backing away from a policy that treated gay couples differently than straight ones, after being pressured from a coalition of gay groups that included Georgia Equality.
AAA South in the past has said LGBT partners can be added as primary members, but not associates. The prohibition can be costly, meaning gay couples pay $34 to $59 more than married, heterosexual couples for an annual membership based on the plan they purchase.
Georgia Equality and Tennessee Equality Project joined with an effort led by Equality Florida last month to pressure the AAA affiliate to mend its ways. The effort apparently paid off, according to Tom O’Brien, president and CEO, AAA Auto Club South, after a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday.
“We had not talked about this issue very much at all until you reached out to us, and that has caused us to talk about it quite a bit,” O’Brien said. “Our policy does include gay and lesbian spouses, wherever they were married. Whether in other states or countries, they qualify.”
AAA South, in its statement with Equality Florida about the meeting, says it will take about two weeks to train 3,000 staff members to implement the policy uniformly.
Same-sex couples applying for a membership need only state that they are married to receive the family benefit. Management also left the door open to expand the policy to include domestic partners – gay and straight.
“We are pleased with the outcome of our meeting. AAA is an iconic American company that many of us associate with summer vacation and family road trips. To have AAA South set a standard for full equality for all married couples, regardless of sexual orientation, is an important message and one we hope other companies will follow,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida.
Jeff Graham (photo), executive director of Georgia Equality, applauded the AAA change in a statement issued Friday morning.
“We are grateful for Equality Florida bringing this issue to our attention,” Graham says. “It is small victories such as this that begins to shift the political environment in Georgia and throughout the South that will be needed to see greater successes in the future.”
AAA South has more than four million members in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Puerto Rico.