Seattle-based Alaska Airlines in hot water after allegedly discriminating against a gay couple on a flight from New York to LA.
David Cooley, the owner of LA bar The Abbey, wrote a (since deleted or made private) Facebook post saying that he and his boyfriend were aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1407 at John F. Kennedy International Airport when a flight attendant asked Cooley's partner to leave his Premium seat and move to Economy class so that a straight couple could sit together.
"I explained that we were a couple and wanted to sit together," Cooley wrote. "He was given a choice to either give up the premium seat and move to coach or get off the plane. We could not bear the feeling of humiliation for an entire cross-country flight and left the plane. I cannot believe that an airline in this day and age would give a straight couple preferential treatment over a gay couple and go so far as to ask us to leave."
The airline says they inadvertantely double booked the seat and apologized for the error.
"This unfortunate incident was caused by a seating error, compounded by a full flight and a crew seeking an on-time departure and nothing more than that," the company said in a statement. "It's our policy to keep all families seated together whenever possible; that didn't happen here and we are deeply sorry for the situation. We've reached out to Mr. Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened and we are seeking to make it right."
While this may very well have been a seating error, it sure as shit looks bad and the flight attendant's action may very well be illegal. According to Lisa Nowlin, staff attorney at the ACLU of Washington, Washington state law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexuality. In New York, where the incident occured, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act also "prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights." So, while there are no federal laws protecting LGBTQetc people from discrimination, should Cooley and his boyfriend decide to sue, they might very well have a case.