UPDATED: Alaska Air Asks Gay Couple To Separate So Straight Couple Could Sit Together

Alaska Air asked a gay couple to separate on a flight from NYC to LA so a straight couple could sit together

UPDATE: I personally spoke with Bobbie Egan, External Communications Director for Alaska Airlines, this morning who told me, “I think this is an incident of human error. It was a mistake, and it shouldn’t have happened.”

Ms. Egan also emailed a statement which read:

“We mistakenly booked two people in one seat. We are deeply sorry for the situation, and are investigating the details while communicating directly with the guests involved to try and make this right. Alaska Airlines has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind, and our employees value inclusion for our guests and each other.”

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After boarding an Alaska Airline flight from New York City’s JFK airport to Los Angeles, a gay businessman and his partner were approached by a flight attendant and his companion was asked to change seats.

It appears a straight couple had been assigned the same seats and the gay couple was being asked to move in deference to the straight couple who wanted to sit together.

The man, David Cooley, is the founder and CEO of the prominent West Hollywood nightclub, The Abbey.

Dave Cooley (image via Facebook)

Dave Cooley shared on Facebook, “I have never been so discriminated against while traveling before. I was removed from an Alaska Airlines flight # 1407 from John F. Kennedy International Airport to LAX to give preferential treatment to a straight couple.”

“After my traveling companion and I had been seated in our assigned seats for a while, we were approached by the flight attendant and my companion was asked to move from his premium seat to coach, so a couple could sit together.

“I explained that we were a couple and wanted to sit together,” Cooley continued. “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. We will never be flying Alaska Airlines or their recently purchased Virgin Airlines Group ever again. Thank you to Delta Air Lines for getting us home safe.

“If you are an #LGBT person, please spend your travel dollars with an LGBT friendly airline like Delta,” concluded the businessman.

According to GayStarNews, Alaska Airlines issued a statement acknowledging the incident:

When boarding flight 1407 from JFK to LAX, a couple was mistakenly assigned the same seats as another couple in Premium Class. We reseated one of the guests from Premium Class in the Main Cabin.

We are deeply sorry for the situation, and are investigating the details while communicating directly with the guests involved to try and make this right. Alaska Airlines has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind, and our employees value inclusion for our guests and each other.

Was this a case of placing a straight couple’s ‘couplehood’ over a gay couple?

Was this discrimination?

Folks have wondered if perhaps Cooley’s partner might have been given a free upgrade, and if the straight couple had paid for their seats which might give priority to the straight couple…?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’ve reached out to both Mr. Cooley and Alaska Airlines for any further details.

In the past, Alaska Air has shown support for the LGBTQ community. In 2015, the airline offered several discounts timed to coincide with Pride events. And, the airline’s official website has a dedicated section for LGBTQ travelers.

(h/t GayStarNews)

Tennessee Hardware Store Puts Up Sign “No Gays Allowed”

In response to the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding in 2012, a Tennessee hardware store put up a sign which read, “No Gays Allowed.”

From USA Today:

Jeff Amyx, who owns Amyx Hardware & Roofing Supplies in Grainger County, Tennessee., about an hour outside of Knoxville, added the “No Gays Allowed” sign on Monday, because gay and lesbian couples are against his religion.

Amyx, who is also a baptist minister, said he realized Monday morning that LGBT people are not afraid to stand for what they believe in. He said it showed him that Christian people should be brave enough to stand for what they believe in.

“They gladly stand for what they believe in, why can’t I? They believe their way is right, I believe it’s wrong. But yet I’m going to take more persecution than them because I’m standing for what I believe in,” Amyx said.

On Tuesday, Amyx removed the “No Gays allowed” sign and replaced it with a sign that says: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech & freedom of religion.”

Republicans Hope To Legalize Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Look out for more anti-LGBT action in Congress as the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) has been introduced in both chambers of Congress.

Currently pending in the House as H.R. 1881, and in the Senate as S. 811, the legislation seeks to legalize LGBQ discrimination by allowing adoption providers to use “sincerely held religious beliefs” as a basis for denying gays or lesbians adoption services.

“Prohibits the federal government, and any state or local government that receives federal funding for any program that provides child welfare services under part B (Child and Family Services) or part E (Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) of title IV of the Social Security Act (SSAct), from discriminating or taking an adverse action against a child welfare service provider that declines to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare service that conflicts with the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

The bill would require the Health and Human Services department to withhold 15% of federal funds from state or local governments that take action against folks who would exercise their right to discriminate against LGBTs.

#BadNews

Of course, the haters love the hateful bill:

Oregon: Anti-LGBT Bakers Appeal To State Supreme Court

Melissa and Aaron Klein of Sweet Cakes Bakery

You may recall back in February of 2013, Melissa and Aaron Klein as owners of Sweet Cakes bakery in Oregon refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple.

The customers who were turned away, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her wife, Laurel, filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries saying they had been the victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation which is clearly against the state’s public accommodation laws.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries agreed and fined the Sweet Cakes owners $135,000 for emotional damages suffered.

The Kleins took their case to the Oregon Court of Appeals and lost again as the appeals court agreed with the Bureau’s determination.

Now, the Kleins have asked the Oregon State Supreme Court to to overturn the lower court rulings.

The Kleins have paid the fine of $135,000 but it’s been held in a state escrow account until all appeal options have been exhausted.

While the Kleins have cried poor in the aftermath of their anti-LGBT bigotry being exposed, it’s quite noteworthy that a “Christian” crowdfunding campaign by fellow haters raised over $500,000 in support of the Kleins.

You can see the stories chronicling their windfall here and here.

So the couple has actually made money in this little escapade.

It’s time to leave it alone, Kleins. You broke the state’s public accommodation law, you make a butt load of money through the whole debacle.

Just – full stop.

(source)

Hawaii Appeals Court Rules Against B&B For Turning Away “Detestable” Lesbian Couple

Good news from the Aloha State!

Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling on Friday that found the owner of Aloha Bed & Breakfast discriminated against California couple Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford when the owner refused to rent them a room based on their sexual orientation.

Hawaii has a very clear public accommodation law which requires equal access to facilities and services regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

So, it probably didn’t help business owner Phyllis Young when she admitted the turned the women away because, in her view, homosexual relationships were “detestable” and “defiled the land.”

Way to lose a court case, Phyllis.

LGBT legal eagles Lambda Legal represented the couple in the lawsuit.

“This has never been a case about the money,” said Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal. “It’s really been about a civil rights law that needs to protect everyone, it needs to be real and it needs to be followed. When people come for a vacation or other reasons to visit in Hawaii, everyone should be treated equally.”

(source)

Report: State “Religious Exemption” Laws Threaten LGBTQ+ Freedom

(image via Movement Advancement Project)

A new 41-page report released by the Human Rights Watch details how so-called “religious freedom” laws allow for a vast number of individuals and corporations to discriminate against LGBTQ+ folk.

Human Rights Watch researcher Ryan Thoreson says anti-LGBTQ+ legislators like using the term “exemptions” even though the term is misleading.

“Given the dearth of laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in the first place, legislators are getting it exactly backwards and creating exceptions before they’ve ever established the rule,” said Thoreson.

The report lists several examples like:

• Mississippi allows for individuals and businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity/presentation, and persons having extramarital affairs due to religious or moral objections.

• Michigan, Alabama, and North Dakota have passed legislation that allows for adoption/foster care agencies to explicitly discriminate against queer couples or individuals.

• Tennessee law allows for mental health counselors to decline to see LGBTQ+ clients.

In the United States, only 19 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, and housing.

New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Utah offer protections based on sexual orientation (not gender identity), though Utah doesn’t prohibit such discrimination in public accommodations.

In 2018, Illinois, Georgia, Washington, Oklahoma and Florida have all seen new “religious exemption” bills filed in their state legislatures.

CA Judge: Baker May Continue To Deny Same-Sex Couples Wedding Cakes While Awaiting Trial

Basing his decision on the distinction between selling a product or creating an artistic expression, Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe has ruled that baker Cathy Miller of Bakersfield can continue to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

The case began last August when Miller, a conservative Christian, refused to make a wedding cake for Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio.

Miller claimed it violated her deeply held Christian beliefs.

The Rodriguez-Del Rioses filed a complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging Miller had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits public businesses from denying service to anyone on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Note: This ruling is a motion regarding a preliminary injunction. The case has not been tried yet.

From Bakersfield.com:

“A retail tire shop may not refuse to sell a tire because the owner does not want to sell tires to same sex couples. There is nothing sacred or expressive about a tire. No artist, having placed their work for public sale, may refuse to sell for an unlawful discriminatory purpose. No baker may place their wares in a public display case, open their shop, and then refuse to sell because of race, religion, gender, or gender identification,” Lampe wrote.

His distinction, he said, is between the act of selling a product to a same-sex couple and creating a product for the same couple.

“The difference here is that the cake in question is not yet baked,” Lampe wrote. “The State is not petitioning the court to order defendants to sell a cake. The State asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids. For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment.”

The ruling doesn’t end the case. It just allows Miller to continue denying same-sex couples wedding cakes until the trial is resolved sometime this summer.

#ItsNotOver

New Ad From OpenToAll

From OpenToAll.com:

As a nation, we decided a long time ago that when a business opens its doors to the public, it should be open to everyone, on the same terms.

But a case now before the Supreme Court wants to take us back to the days when businesses could tell people, “We don’t serve your kind here.” Masterpiece Cakeshop is arguing that it should have a constitutional right to discriminate against customers simply because of who they are.

That’s why we all need to get involved. This case paves the way to eroding the federal Civil Rights Act and dismantling state and federal laws intended to protect people of color, women, religious minorities, people with disabilities, LGBT people and others from discrimination.

In their new ad, OpenToAll reminds that the Masterpiece Bakery case as SCOTUS is about much more than a bakery. Imagine a school counselor refusing to help an LGBT student…

Watch the new ad below.

First Impressions From #MasterpieceCakeshop Arguments At SCOTUS

Mark Stern, reporter for Slate, offers his first impressions after attending the SCOTUS arguments today regarding Colorado baker Jack Phillips who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple for their wedding.

According to Stern, things may not look promising for the good guys.

Just got out of arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop. I think the anti-gay baker wins 5-4.

Kennedy doesn’t seem to agree that refusing to serve a same-sex wedding is inherently anti-gay discrimination. And he said Colorado has been “neither tolerant nor respectful” to the baker’s “religious beliefs.”

Kennedy did suggest that a baker who put an anti-gay sign in his window would create “an affront to the gay community.” But then he implied that Colorado is discriminating against Christian bakers.

Roberts, Alito, and Gorsuch all obviously supported the anti-gay baker. Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Breyer were extremely skeptical of his position.

I only see one way progressives win: Kennedy says compelled cake-baking isn’t speech, but religious discrimination may have infected this case. Then remand for further findings on free exercise.

I think there is a decent chance that there are 5 votes for this resolution. But I also think it’s more likely that 5 justices find a reason to rule for the baker.

David Badash, at The New Civil Rights Movement, posted this on Facebook:

It looks possible, even likely, LGBT civil rights will lose in today’s SCOTUS case. The is bad, not only for the LGBT community but for all minorities, and women.

Those who voted for Trump, Stein, Johnson, or wrote in someone other than Clinton, esp. in battleground states, helped put Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. A Clinton win would have put a progressive on the Court, and we would have won this case.

If people who believe in equality lose this case, so many in America will suffer. This is what happens in a deeply divided society where every single vote is critical.
Go ahead, come at me.

Mississippi: New “Religious Freedom” Law Will Allow Broad Discrimination Against LGBTs

Beginning this Friday, a new “religious freedom” law will take effect allowing officials and service providers the legal right to deny services to LGBT folks based on religious beliefs.

From LocalMemphis.com:

House Bill 1523 will allow anyone from doctors to store owners to deny service for LGBT people based on individual religious beliefs.

Critics of the law call it the nation’s most sweeping anti-LGBT law, while supporters say it protects their faith based convictions.

Those in opposition said they’re contemplating their next legal step in the coming days.

The legislation passed in the Mississippi General Assembly last year, and was signed by Governor Phil Bryant, but faced legal challenges since had yet to take effect.

That’s expected to change this week after a three-judge panel ruled the plaintiffs who sued in opposition to HB 1523 didn’t have the standing challenge the law.

HB 1523 will protect three types of religious beliefs as justification to deny service to LGBT individuals in Mississippi including the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman.