Skywest Airlines gives spouses free fares, but a SkyWest Airlines baggage agent who married his partner last year after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions, and before Prop. 8 banned them again, says the airline is refusing his legally sanctioned same-sex marriage.

While Prop. 8 amended the state Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, those 18,000 or so same-sex couples who married before the November election are still legally recognized as married. The state Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 this past May, it also ruled that couples who wed before the election could remain legally wed.

Gilbert Caldwell, 56, who has worked for SkyWest in Palm Springs since September 2004, married David Farrell, 72, his partner of 34 years, in June 2008. They had been registered domestic partners since 2002. Skywest says that “travel companion,” entitled to fly at a discount but not for free, as spouses are.

Interestingly, even with same-sex marriage, California law entitles same-sex spouses and domestic partners to be treated the same as heterosexual married couples in employment, housing, insurance and commerce. As Caldwell and Farrell were already domestic partners, they should have been eligible for this free fare discount already.

Tara Borelli of the gay-rights organization Lambda Legal is Caldwell’s attorney. She said Skywest’s position for the last year has been that Delta Air Lines, its partner in regional flights in the West, insisted on denying equal benefits to same-sex couples. Howeever, Borelli added that SkyWest’s explanation is hard to believe: Delta has a policy of treating its own gay and lesbian employees equally.

She said Caldwell would sue for damages unless SkyWest changed its policy.

Originally on SNAFU-ed

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