Gay Couple Booted Off Southwest Airlines Flight Blames Homophobia

"It felt like being forced back into the closet."

Two men from Iceland are demanding answers after being kicked off a recent Southwest Airlines flight before departure.

James McDaniel and boyfriend Hafsteinn “Haffi” Himinljómi Regínuson (better known in Iceland as drag queen Ragna Rök) were booked on a Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore to Atlanta, GayIceland reports. They were ultimately headed to Alabama to spend the holidays with McDaniel’s family.

McDaniel, 31, who is now an Icelandic citizen, detailed the December 22 incident in a lengthy Facebook post.

“We boarded our flight to Atlanta on time and were getting cozy, glad to be on the last leg of our trip,” he wrote. “Then, while we were sitting in our seats on the plane three police officers came onto the plane and told the two of us we had to leave immediately. They wouldn’t tell us why.”

The officers eventually accused Regínuson of throwing something at a flight attendant, which the couple denies.

James MacDaniel/Gay Iceland

“They said if we didn’t leave they would take Haffi away in handcuffs,” McDaniel recalls. “Haffi started to cry, holding his hands up to his face. They told me that if he didn’t calm down he would be arrested.”

McDaniel says he was told he could remain on the flight without Regínuson, but he chose to stay with his boyfriend. They eventually made it to Alabama via train.

“The main difference between us and other passengers was that we were openly gay,” says McDaniel, who believes homophobia played a part in the incident. “Not in an over the top or publicly disrespectful way, but in a way that we are used to living in a free country like Iceland.”

“We hold hands when we walk together. We might take a brief kiss now and then. And on the flight, Haffi has a tendency to curl against my shoulder and nap. All things which, of course are normal between a healthy, loving adult couple, no matter what part of the sexual spectrum they are, whether straight or gay.”

“It’s just unfortunate that this was Haffi’s first experience in my homeland,” McDaniel continues. “It felt like being forced back into the closet.”

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

In a statement provided to Gay Star News, a Southwest spokesperson says that flight attendants and some passengers “expressed concerns about one customer’s unruly behavior prior to departure,” adding that there are “no reports indicating this event involved any type of discrimination.”

“Our Ground Operations Employees followed guidelines and requested the Customer exit the aircraft due to behavior that demonstrated signs of intoxication, which continued once off the aircraft. As a precaution, law enforcement was called to the gate while our Employees were speaking with the Customer.”

The spokesperson also claims the airline had offered to rebook the couple on a flight the following day as “a goodwill gesture” and have since refunded the cost of the original tickets.

Responding to Southwest’s statement, McDaniel says they only had “a couple of beers with dinner” during their Baltimore layover, adding that no mention had been made of intoxication during the incident.

McDaniel is currently seeking legal representation for guidance.

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