Delta Air Lines – its progressive voice recently quieted by Republicans in Georgia and criticized by LGBT activists for going soft – moved to regain its gay mojo by offering to pay the tax tab for same-sex couples on its payroll.
The Atlanta-based company announced that it will now pay for the federal or state income or payroll tax burden for same-sex couples enrolled in its healthcare plans. LGBT couples in states like Georgia and Texas that ban gay marriage pay additional taxes based on the value of the insurance, unlike straight couples or gay couples living in states that have legalized same-sex unions.
The reason? Delta says parity.
This will result in parity of the cost of health care coverage between same-sex domestic partners and employees in legally recognized marriages regardless of U.S. location.
The move, announced last week, is retroactive to Jan. 1. But it comes after Delta was blistered during the recent legislative session in Georgia. Some Republicans, upset with CEO Richard Anderson's outspoken criticism of “religious freedom” bills in 2014, fired back by stripping the company of a tax break that saved it $23 million a year. LGBT activists knocked the company for staying silent during the raucous, months-long debate over the legislation this year.
Delta enjoys a long history of supporting LGBT equality. It was among a host of gay-friendly companies that in March urged the U.S. Supreme Court to make gay marriage legal, it routinely scores among the best in HRC's Corporate Equality Index, the company has hosted an avant-garde drag ball fundraiser for HIV causes, it supports Pride festivals in Atlanta (photo) and several other cities, and sponsors the HRC Dinner Gala in Atlanta. And when a ticket kiosk spits out a little “H8GAYS,” the company takes swift action.
HRC applauded the company for addressing the tax inequality.
Grossing up has become less of an issue as more states allow same-sex marriage, according to Deena Fidas, director of the group's workplace equality program.
Still, she says, “it's the right thing to do. It's fair to the workforce.