Updated at 10 a.m. on Wednesday with comment from American Airlines.
WASHINGTON — A new campaign is condemning top technology companies, airlines and other major firms for donating to lawmakers with a poor record of supporting LGBT equality.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who has pushed legislation to protect businesses that refuse service to same-sex couples, is one of the top targets, along with other Texans in Congress.
The Zero for Zeros campaign launched ads Tuesday on social media aimed at pressuring Fort Worth-based American Airlines, Google and other companies whose PACs have donated to lawmakers the group deems “anti-gay.”
“These companies are some of the most well-known companies throughout the world and they support LGBT equality in many ways,” Lane Hudson, Zero for Zeros campaign manager, said in a statement. “Their political contributions to the most anti-gay members of Congress do not reflect the values they have expressed to their employees and the public.”
Cruz has received $18,500 from Google, $16,000 from American Airlines, $15,000 from Microsoft and $2,000 from Amazon since 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records. Corporations are allowed to make donations indirectly to federal candidates, through PACs.
All five of the companies received a score of 100 on the 2019 Human Rights Campaign Foundation Corporate Equality Index, which rates workplaces on LGBT equality. The Zero for Zeros campaign argues that given their high scores and apparent sensitivity to such issues, they should stop donating to lawmakers who don’t strongly support LGBT rights.
“American Airlines participates in the political and public policy process in a number of ways, including by making contributions from our political action committee. With respect to the contributions that we make, we don’t agree on every issue with the lawmakers to whom we make contributions, but we fundamentally believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect — and equally under the law,” American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said in a statement.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down state-level bans on same-sex marriage in June 2015. During his 2016 presidential run, Cruz argued that states should regulate marriage, and he criticized the court’s majority for sweeping aside the bans.
He also showcased bakers and other business owners who faced legal trouble for trying to deny service to gay couples, arguing that their religious freedom had been violated. Following a Supreme Court ruling in favor of one such baker in June 2018, Cruz tweeted, “Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding a Colorado baker’s constitutional right to live according to his faith is a major victory for religious liberty.”
Gay rights activists blasted Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn for recommending a lifetime federal judgeship for Matthew Kacsmaryk, who defended a bakery that turned away a same-sex couple and voiced opposition to Obergefell vs. Hodges, the landmark 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage. The Senate confirmed him last month.
Despite his record on such controversies, Cruz also has used his platform to challenge foreign regimes that mistreat gays and lesbians. He has condemned a law in Brunei that punishes gay sex with death by stoning. “This is wrong. It is barbaric. America should condemn this immoral and inhumane law, and everyone should be united against it,” he tweeted in March.
Cruz’s office did not respond to request for comment about the Zero for Zeros campaign.
Other Texans the group is targeting include GOP Reps. Bill Flores, Pete Olson, Randy Weber, Brian Babin and Louie Gohmert. All have received donations from PACs for American, AT&T, Microsoft, Amazon or other major employers.
“It is indeed unfortunate that so many who say they are against hate have become so hateful and intolerant toward Christian beliefs. As a Christian, I believe the definition of marriage given by Moses and again verbatim by Jesus, while I also care about the individuals who believe otherwise,” Gohmert said in a statement.
Gohmert has received $10,500 from American Airlines, $32,000 from AT&T, $7,000 from Microsoft and $4,000 from UPS since 2005.