Same-Sex Couple Sues Airline Over Harassment

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A same-sex couple is suing Allegiant Air, alleging they were harassed by a flight attendant because they are gay and wrongfully escorted off a plane as they tried to return home from a cremation service in Los Angeles last fall.

The allegations in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Tuesday by Stacy Ziegler King and Christina King include civil rights violations, discrimination, breach of contract and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiffs, who are seeking unspecified damages, allege they were harassed by the same Allegiant flight attendant on two separate flights.

A representative for Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air -- named as a defendants along with flight attendant Valerie Hawkins-Gerry -- could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to the complaint, the women and their sons, ranging in age from 23 to 13, flew from Bellingham, Washington, to Los Angeles last Oct. 27 so Stacy King could attend her mother's cremation service. Stacy King works as a court-appointed guardian for children and Christina King is an attorney, the suit states.

The couple and one of their sons sat in one row and the other three sons were in a separate row. Hawkins-Gerry was pleasant at first, but became ``hostile and rude'' to the women after Stacy King laid her head on her partner's shoulder and the two held hands, according to their lawsuit.

Hawkins-Gerry was ``short'' with both plaintiffs until the end of that flight, and also was working the return flight the women and their sons took three days later, the suit says.

Before the homebound plane took off from Los Angeles International Airport, Hawkins-Gerry asked Stacy King whether she was the mother of the couple's sons, according to the suit. Stacy King responded that she did not think the question was relevant, but the flight attendant ``continued with hostile and harassing questioning,'' according to the couple's court papers.

They allege Hawkins-Gerry later insisted that Stacy King move back a row to sit with three of the couple's sons, telling her ``you're the mom'' and insisting that a parent has to sit with minor children. Instead of complying with the flight attendant's demands, the plaintiffs got up and sat with their 13-year-old son, which appeared to upset Hawkins-Gerry because the women were sitting together, the suit says.

Hawkins-Gerry's anger intensified because she believed three of the boys were not paying attention when she gave exit row safety instructions, the suit states. The flight attendant left and returned with another Allegiant employee, identified in the lawsuit only as ``Krystal,'' who told the couple that Hawkins-Gerry did not believe the boys understood the safety instruction, according to the plaintiffs.

After Stacy King explained that the family flew often and understood the Federal Aviation Administration requirements, Hawkins-Gerry began ``screaming that she wanted all of them off the plane'' and another flight attendant, identified only as ``Mark,'' laughed and said, ``you're out of here,'' the suit alleges.

Stacy King told Hawkins-Gerry that she believed the couple was being singled out because they are lesbians, and the flight attendant ``did not deny this,'' according to the complaint, which says that Krystal escorted the two women and their boys off the flight, apologized to them, offered to refund the money they paid for their tickets and said she would try to find them an alternate flight.

``Krystal said that she attempted to deescalate the situation, but that the flight attendant was too angry,'' the suit states.

Allegiant did not have another flight back to Bellingham for several days, so the family had to take a flight on another airline, according to the plaintiffs' court papers.

Stacy King contacted customer service at Allegiant on Nov. 1 and an airline employee apologized, but did compensate the women for their expenses after being removed from the homebound flight, according to their suit.

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