Couple was denied their discount vacation after the company providing it found out they were gay
Planning a vacation is never easy. Luckily, there are companies available whose sole job is to make planning and taking a vacation as stress-free as possible. In the case of Best Vacations Ever, they will be more than happy to do that in exchange for you attending a 90-minute seminar on time shares. Oh, but only if you’re straight.
Dr. Tim Seelig and his partner Dan England were contacted by Best Vacations Ever with an offer. Attend one of these time share seminars and we will send you to Las Vegas for an all inclusive, discount vacation. The couple had been looking at Las Vegas as a possible destination and Best Vacations Ever seemed to have everything they wanted in their vacation package. Tim and Dan talked it over, chose the first week of January and purchased the Las Vegas trip.
After receiving a welcome packet and confirmation email, Dan called Best Vacations Ever to complete the booking process. Yes, there was the time share seminar requirement, but Tim figured they could muddle through 90 minutes. On October 30th, Tim’s phone rang. Dan had just hung up with Best Vacations Ever, after speaking to a reservation agent and two employees in Quality Control. All three of these individuals told Dan Best Vacations Ever would be unable to book their trip because Dan and Tim are a gay couple.
Tim’s first response was one of astonishment. He told me his exact word was “Nooo!” Dan explained that, in the middle of speaking with the first representative, he had given Tim’s name as the other person traveling to Las Vegas. The woman asked “Is that a man?” Dan replied “Yes,” at which point the woman asked Dan to hold. When she returned, she told him “I am so sorry, we are unable to book Vegas for same sex couples.” Stunned, Dan asked to speak to a manager. Again, the three people Dan spoke with all told him the same thing: Best Vacations Ever was unable to book their trip to Las Vegas because Dan and Tim are gay.
Dan and Tim were both married to women decades ago. Tim was an associate music pastor at The First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, and in 1986, he was fired for coming out of the closet. He lost everything; his house, his children, his job, his family. Tim became active with the Turtle Creek Corale, a gay men’s chorus in Dallas. He moved to San Francisco a few years ago and is a nationally renowned conductor, musical director, teacher and motivational speaker. In other words, Tim Seelig has a platform, a very public platform, and he is using it to shine a spotlight on Best Vacations Ever.
Tim shared an email he received from Kenneth Branch, a quality assurance manager with Best Vacations Ever. In the first paragraph of that email, Mr. Branch uses the phrase “sexual preference” three times. Mr. Branch also apologized for the “way in which this matter was handled,” and went on to “clear the air.” He claimed that the customer service representative Dan spoke to was mistaken and Best Vacations Ever will “accept all couples.” The key word there is “couples.”
A public relations rep for Best Vacations Ever, Michelle Morse, gave a statement to Huffington Post claiming the reason six different people told both Dan and Tim they couldn’t go to Vegas because they’re gay was actually because Dan and Tim never proved they were “co-habitating.” Not one person before Ms. Morse ever mentioned co-habitating. Not one.
Best Vacations also claimed on their Facebook page that they were unable to contact either Dan or Tim because all they had was a first name. Oh and a phone number, the first and last names of both Dan and Tim, a credit card number and an email, but okay. Tim also repeated what the sixth person he spoke to from Best Vacations Ever told him about this “no gays allowed” policy: it’s not them, it’s the timeshare companies with whom they partner. Employee number six also never mentioned the word “co-habitating.”
Tim Seelig was outraged and flabbergasted, so much so, he posted about this experience on his Facebook page. His post was picked up by Towleroad, who included a link to the Best Vacations Ever contact information. And suddenly, a travel agency in Winter Park, Florida was scrambling to make this go away. Unfortunately for them, Tim and Dan aren’t “go away” kinds of men.
Dan is what Tim calls a “closet activist,” participating in AIDS rides and raising awareness for HIV and AIDS groups. Tim is an outspoken champion of LGBT issues, even creating an incredibly powerful video with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus inspired by the “It Gets Better” campaign. Both these men understand what it is to endure hate and bigotry, and they were not going to stand silent when it happened to them.
Tim did question his decision to go public with what Best Vacations Ever did to Dan and himself. His reasons for doing so are inspiring. Tim realizes that other LGBT couples have probably had similar experiences with Best Vacations Ever, and there are probably LGBT employees forced to recite this discriminatory policy to others. He wants those people to know it’s okay to stand up, it’s okay to say “I am not less than.” When I asked Tim what, if anything, Best Vacations Ever could do to make this up to him, he told me a story.
When he came out, his brother replaced him at First Baptist Church of Houston and disowned him. Later, Tim’s brother asked what he could do to earn Tim’s forgiveness. Tim told his brother to write a book about what not to do when a family member comes out as LGBT and publish it. Tim wants the same from Best Vacations Ever; a public apology on their website, not buried on their Facebook page.
We ended our conversation with Tim telling me about a project he’s working on with The Tyler Clementi Foundation, a symphony of sorts, featuring seven composers. “Tyler Clementi quietly left his dorm room and jumped off a bridge,” Tim said, his voice low. And that’s why Tim went public, that’s why he will never stop being an activist, using music to empower and teach. If he can stand up, perhaps he can inspire others to do the same. It doesn’t matter how public your platform is, or if you have a platform at all. Stand up, be heard. You are not less than.
My sincere thanks to Dr. Tim Seelig for this interview.