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Is the lesbian couple accusing Qantas of homophobia overreacting?

A Victorian couple flying from Brisbane to Melbourne with their daughter have accused Qantas Airways of “blatant homophobia.”

Kristina, Merrin and their daughter, Lily, have said that staff members on board asked them twice if they’d change seats to allow an elderly couple in their 70s to sit together.

This is a tough one, because with two parents with a child, you’d think that it would be rough to split the family up, depending on how the little one was behaving, but at the same time, we’ve got to respect our elders, too, right? So my natural instinct would be to give up my seat for the elderly couple.

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However, Kristina and Merrin took the cabin crews’ reissued tickets and their pleas to move as something more sinister, especially after they were confronted a second time despite saying no.

“I again advised the flight manager that we were a family and wanted to be seated together. She asked me why I had taken it upon myself to move the wife away from her husband. I advised her that we were in our designated seats.

“She demanded to see our boarding passes. We produced them and again she asked why we were not allowing the married couple to be seated together.

“I again told her that Merrin was my partner and Lily our daughter. I told her we had just as much right to be seated together as the married couple.”

Is this just a case of two parents overreacting, or was Qantas being blatantly homophobic?

Well, the airline, which is involved with LGBTI events including the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and which is headed by openly gay chief executive Alan Joyce, released a statement saying it was just an “unfortunate misunderstanding”. Without knowing the couple or what really went on during that flight, I’d have to agree with Qantas on this one.

Travelling as a family or not, it just makes sense to me to let an elderly couple travel together. They may have been afraid of flying, maybe one has a medical condition, maybe it was their 50th wedding anniversary yesterday and they were heading home to Melbourne after a weekend partying on the Gold Coast glitter strip to celebrate, maybe they’re hungover. OK, that last one might be a little unlikely.

Others have been giving their two cents about the situation on social media, saying the couple were just having a good whinge about nothing.

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“Oh c’mon! Giving up your seat for an elderly couple is simply the kind thing to do. And would’ve taught their daughter a valuable lesson in kindness towards strangers and good manners,” one person commented on Studio 10’s Facebook page.

Another person raised a good point, wondering: “Were there no other people on the plane that could accommodate the elderly couple?”

The idea of marriage privilege has also been raised, with some saying that the elderly couple were favoured because they were married, something that just isn’t an option for people in same-sex relationships in Australia.

While that certainly is a travesty and an embarrassment for Australia, in that we are so far behind in giving equal rights to people of all sexual orientations, I don’t think Qantas was acting homophobic, as asking one person to vacate a seat for an elderly couple just seems common sense.

What do you think? Was the couple right to accuse Qantas of being homophobic? Let us know in the comments section below.

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