Southwest Airlines has developed a reputation as an airline that prides itself on orderliness. Not the sort of orderliness that would preclude it from having a needlessly confusing open seating procedure that all but ensures there won’t be enough space in the overhead baggage bins, thus delaying your flight by several minutes. But rather the general sort of orderliness that doesn’t allow room for egregiously fat people, will not tolerate saggy pants, and now, cannot abide by the sight of two lesbians breaking decorum by sharing a kiss.
Former L Word actress and Uh Huh Her musician Leisha Hailey learned of this last regulation the hard way yesterday, when she and her partner Camila Grey shared a kiss before takeoff and were immediately reprimanded by a Southwest a flight attendant, who warned they were on a “family airline,” and—according to an official statement made after the fact—that she had received complaints from other passengers that Hailey and Grey’s public display of affection was “excessive.” The resulting argument ended with Hailey and Grey being escorted off the plane.
As with all celebrities (and pretty much anyone) who have a problem with Southwest Airlines, Hailey and Grey broadcast their experience on Twitter, calling for a boycott and sending numerous tweets in Southwest’s direction through their band’s official feed, declaring, “We didn't know intolerance and discrimination for slouchy pants, being overweight or being gay was part of your family values… Maybe you guys should put up a big sign that lists what you don't tolerate before we spend our money on your horrible service,” with Hailey concluding, “I demand a public apology @SouthwestAir and a refund. Hate is not a family value. I will never fly this airline.
The band also characterized the kiss as “a small peck on the lips” and denied the airline’s assertion that the stewardess even mentioned complaints from other passengers, instead saying it was the action of a single “homophobic employee” which Southwest is now implicitly endorsing. Today the band expounded on that in an official statement released through its publicist:
We have always promoted tolerance, openness and equality both as a band and as individuals. We both come from loving homes where our parents not only love and accept us, but are also proud of who we are. We believe everyone has the right to live openly in this society as equals. In no way were our actions on Southwest Airlines excessive, inappropriate or vulgar. We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one, modest kiss. We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple. We were on the airplane less than 5 minutes when all was said and done. We take full responsibility for getting verbally upset with the flight attendant after being told it was a “family airline.” We were never told the reason the flight attendant approached us, we were only scolded that we “needed to be aware that Southwest Airlines was a family oriented airline.”
No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn’t make it any less loud. You can’t whisper hate. We ask this airline to teach their employees to not discriminate against any couple, ever, regardless of their own beliefs. We want to live in a society where if your loved one leans over to give you an innocent kiss on an airplane it's not labeled as "excessive or not family oriented" by a corporation and it’s employees. We find it very disturbing that the same airline who lauds itself as being LGBT friendly has twisted an upsetting incident that happened into our behavior being "too excessive." The above is not an apology and we are in the process of filing a formal complaint with the airline. We hope that when all is said and done a greater tolerance without prejudice will evolve.
Indeed, the Southwest Airlines website does trumpet its "gay friendly travel" and “outreach and commitment to the GLBT community” through partnerships with gay and lesbian organizations and being the “official airline of GLAAD,” as well as posting photos of sassy gay Southwest employees having a gay old time together. But you will notice that none of them are kissing, because Southwest simply has to impose some sense of order on this topsy-turvy world.