The publicist for a lesbian actress and musician who says she was escorted off a flight for “one modest kiss” of her partner says the encounter was not a stunt for her band’s upcoming breast cancer awareness tour.
Leisha Hailey, best known for playing Alice Pieszecki in the now defunct Showtime lesbian life drama “The L Word,” asked her Twitter followers to boycott Southwest Airlines after the encounter Monday.
The airline responded that Hailey’s display of affection was excessive and drew customer complaints.
The actress and her partner, Camila Grey, denied in a statement released Tuesday that the affection they showed toward each other was inappropriate.
“We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one modest kiss,” the written statement said. “We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple.”
“No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn’t make it any less loud,” the statement said. “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.”
Hailey and Gray said they plan to file a formal complaint with the airline.
The incident resulted in a national media spotlight for the actress, who now is a part of the electro-pop duo Uh Huh Her. Publicist Libby Coffey said Tuesday that the encounter was real and was “absolutely not” done for attention.
The airline said in a news release posted on its website: “Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”
Hailey tweeted that she was escorted off the flight after it landed. The statement said the incident with the flight attendant lasted five minutes.
The air carrier so far has limited its response to the four-sentence statement on its website. Phone calls and emails seeking comment were not returned.
“Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive,” the statement said in part.
Details of how the couple was escorted off the flight were not included in the Southwest statement. Initial reports had the flight between Baltimore and St. Louis, but a tweet by the band says its members were flying from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles, which was concerned by Hailey’s publicist.
The band’s Twitter feed also characterized the kiss as fleeting. “I didn’t realize a small peck on the lips is regarded as excessive and never once did your stewardess mention other passengers,” said the tweet from UhHuhHerMusic.