posted 2011-10-05 13:35:34

PDA on Southwest Airlines Flight Sparks Controversy

Too Much of the L Word?

Allison Smith

Staff Writer

The LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) community has taken many steps toward achieving equality within the last year. Most notably, gay marriage was legalized in the state of New York this summer and just before that, the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was repealed. While there are still many rights denied to the gay community, it would seem that the traditional fundamentalist's hold on social America is gradually losing sway. However, a recent controversy involving the actress Leisha Hailey and Southwest Airlines brings about the question of discrimination.

Southwest Airlines has a history of enforcing strict codes of conduct, resulting in scandals that have ranged from mildly laughable to roll-of-the-eyes worthy. Just a few weeks ago Billie-Joe Armstrong of the rock band Green Day was escorted from a flight because of his sagging pants, and last winter the film director Kevin Smith was deemed too fat to fly, even after having been seated safely and comfortably.

Now Southwest has gone head-to-head with another celebrity, Leisha Hailey of the Showtime series The L Word. On Monday, the actress accused the airline of discriminating against homosexuals, citing that she and her girlfriend had been escorted from a flight for kissing. According to a tweet by the actress, the flight attendant said “that it was a ‘family’ airline and kissing was not ok.” Indignant, she criticized the airline for staffing homophobic employees and ended her diatribe with a firm, “Boycott @SouthwestAir if you are gay. They don't like us."

Later that same day, Southwest released a public statement stating, “We received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive.  Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender," the statement continued. "The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight."

While I think the word ‘discrimination’ can be thrown about a little too casually at times, I find it unlikely that prejudice didn’t hav ea part to play in this recent flare-up. Despite the progress made in the gay community, there is still so much opposition. Generations have become progressively more liberal, however I seriously doubt everyone on that flight was ok with such a blatant display of homosexuality. Would this debacle have occurred had it been a heterosexual couple?

Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where you had to have been there. In fact, the definition of ‘appropriate affection,” varies from person to person.

In which case, what does Southwestern consider to be, “excessive?”  Are a few affectionate kisses suddenly considered unseemly? More importantly, were the passenger complaints made by seemingly similar middle-aged, Caucasian men who drive near-luxury cars with McCain bumper stickers?

Certainly, the behavior didn’t warrant being removed from a flight; I think a firm warning would have done just fine. Or hey, close your eyes. Unless they were exchanging tonsils—which I think is unlikely considering the actress in question is forty years old, and not some sexually depraved teenager—I think it comes to the simple fact that people need to learn that the definition of ‘family’ no longer includes the traditional man and wife, two kids, and golden retriever posing in front of the white picket fence.

Regardless, gay or straight, kiss your partner on Southwest Airline and it may be the end of your ride.