by Leah Waldron
This month, an Arizona woman is suing Avis Rent a Car for not giving her the “family” rate. Lynn Evenchik claims that, as a straight woman, she was denied the 20 to 25 percent discount that Avis offers to members of two LGBT organizations: the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. While the lawsuit may seem frivolous and inane, it does raise an interesting question (as well as a precedent-setting problem if she wins…but she probably won’t win): Should members of the LGBT community get discounts?
Answer: Abso-freaking-lutely. Evenchik’s lawsuit, which was filed after her week-long, standard-rate car rental in San Diego, claims that Avis violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects consumers from sexual orientation-based discrimination (italics mine):
”All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.“
The Unruh Act, a wonderful piece of legislation, states that a gay individual (or any person, when you consider that list above) cannot be denied any “advantage” or “privilege” not awarded to another person seeking the same benefit. So let’s look at the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), and find out if Lynn Evenchik was legible for the Avis “advantage” or “privilege.”
There is one requirement for becoming a member of the IGLTA, and it has nothing to do with being gay. Rather, membership is open to travel agents and other travel industry businesses, such as “tour operators and wholesalers, hoteliers, travel suppliers like airlines, car rentals, publishing firms, attractions, booking services, concierge services, cruise lines, CVB/tourism offices, gaming/casinos, ground transportation, meeting planners, associations, insurance, internet services, and marketing companies.” You do not have to run an LGBT business, or even be gay, yourself, to become a member. In fact, the IGLTA’s website says that you can be “directly or indirectly involved with the LGBT travel industry.” In other words, if a gay person uses your travel service even by accident, you’re indirectly part of the “LGBT travel industry.”
Luckily for Lynn Evenchik, she’s a travel agent. Her LinkedIn profile, which is available via Google search, shows that she owns her own travel company. So there’s that. And unless she willingly stops gay people from using her tourism services, she’s (indirectly) part of the “LGBT travel industry.”
Next, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). In Evenchik’s case, she wouldn’t qualify for membership because she does not operate an LGBT-owned business. The NGLCC promotes LGBT supplier networks across the U.S., so she’s out of luck there (although, with the IGLTA membership, she’d still get the Avis discount). But that brings me to my second point. According to the NGLCC’s website, discount programs are offered through a variety of “corporate partners,” which are all non-LGBT corporations, such as Intel, Fannie Mae, IBM, Burger King, Pfizer, and over 100 more (including, of course, Avis). In other words, the NCLCC, like any private organization, is brought to you by the symbol $. Avis takes advantage of the fact that LGBT people travel, just like Chevron (another sponsor) knows that we pump gasoline. Giving us a discount because we’re gay does not mean that they love our homosexual flair. They love our money. Otherwise, we’d need to carry LGBT identification cards.
Finally, when Avis Rent a Car charged Evenchik 20-25 percent more than an NGLCC or IGLTA member’s rate, it wasn’t offering these discounts OR the standard rate. The LGBT customer base is just one of Avis’ discount target demographics, which include the following groups: small business owners; military veterans; persons with disabilities; weekend rental families; one-way renters; and even people who rent cars at select airports. Or, in some cases, people who Google “Avis coupon code.” Should Evenchik be awarded legal damages because she wasn’t smart enough to shop around for one of Avis’ 30+ specials? Considering the fact that she’s a travel agent, she knows all about these deals, and has no excuse.
Maybe instead of wasting the court’s time, she should join the IGLTA and shut up.