Gay Passenger Files DOT Complaint Against Saudia — Interesting!

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Saudia

There’s no denying that many of the human rights policies/laws in the Middle East are appalling. While I’m of course vehemently opposed to many of these policies, I also know they won’t change overnight, and that ultimately these aren’t airline policies, but rather government policies based on religion.

I have lots of gay friends living happy lives in the Middle East working for Emirates and Etihad. While of course they’re not happy about the laws, the reality of living in cities like Dubai is quite different than the “letter of the law,” if you will.

Of course that’s Dubai, which is fairly progressive within the region, especially in comparison to places like Saudi Arabia. Which brings us to an interesting complaint filed by a lesbian against Saudia with the Department of Transportation. While the complaint is 15 pages, it’s a quick read, so I’d suggest checking it out.


Here’s the basis of the passenger’s complaint, after she tried to book a ticket from New York to Manila on Saudia:

On April 10, 2015, she spoke to a Saudi Arabian Airlines representative by calling 1-800-472-8342. She advised the airline representative that she was interested in booking a flight on Saudi Arabian Airlines from New York’s JFK airport to Manila, Philippines. This flight has an approximately 10-hour layover in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Complainant advised the representative that she is openly gay, and that she desires to travel with her partner.

The airline representative informed complainant that she could experience difficulties if she were to hold hands with her partner either on the plane or at the airport. The airline representative advised her to conceal the fact that she is gay.

To summarize, the basis of her complaint isn’t the law in Saudi Arabia as such, but rather that Saudia is selling tickets in the US market, and therefore the airline has to comply with some US laws. Specifically, per the complaint:

The Secretary’s paramount and overriding responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of passengers in air commerce. 49 U.S.C. § 40101(a)(1).

Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 40127(a), a foreign air carrier “may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry.”

An air carrier is prohibited by 49 U.S.C. § 41310(a) from subjecting a person “to unreasonable discrimination” in foreign air Third party complaint 7 transportation. The provisions of 49 U.S. C. § 41310(a) prohibit airlines from engaging in non-economic forms of discrimination against individuals. This provision was relied upon by the Secretary in ordering the cessation of discriminatory conduct against Arab passengers in the aftermath of 9/11. See Order Denying Motion of American Airlines to Dismiss, Docket OST-2003-15046, at pp. 2-3.

Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 41712(a), the Secretary may bring action against a foreign air carrier for engaging in an “unfair or deceptive practice or an unfair method of competition in air transportation.”

Basically she’s suggesting that Saudia needs to provide assurance that transit passengers from the United States will not be subjected to any form of “detention, harassment, coercion, or intimidation due to their sexual orientation while waiting for their connecting flights in the Riyadh or Jeddah airport transit areas,” and that if they can’t do that, Saudia’s permit to fly to the US should be revoked:

Saudi Arabian Airlines, and/or the Saudi Arabian authorities, must be required to provide assurances that transit passengers from the United States will not be subjected to any form of detention, harassment, coercion, or intimidation due to their sexual orientation while waiting for their connecting flights in the Riyadh or Jeddah airport transit areas. Saudi Arabian Airlines, and/or the Saudi Arabian authorities, must also provide assurances that LGBT passengers will not be subject to any form of intimidation or harassment while on board any Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from the United States.

In the event the Saudi Arabian Airlines and/or the Saudi Arabian authorities are unable to provide such assurances, the Secretary must nonetheless fulfill his paramount statutory responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all air passengers. 49 U.S.C. § 40101(a)(1). In such event, the Secretary must revoke the permit granted to the Saudi Arabian Airlines to carry passengers from airports in the United States. 49 U.S.C. § 41304(a)

Let me start by saying that I’m not a lawyer (d’oh!). While I’d like to think there’s some legal merit to this case, I just don’t see any:

  • The complaint cites 49 U.S.C. § 40127(a), whereby a foreign air carrier “may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry” — best I can tell, orientation isn’t a protected class here. Hell, there are states in the US which allow discrimination based on orientation, so…
  • Ridiculous laws in Saudi Arabia aren’t limited to gays. The passenger is concerned that she’ll be in trouble over showing affection to her partner, though PDA is frowned upon in Saudi Arabia, gay or straight. Straight guys have been arrested for kissing women in public.
  • Ironically enough, if anything, public same sex hand holding is more acceptable in the Middle East than opposite sex hand holding.

Bottom line

Again, I’m not a lawyer, so I’m curious if someone with a better understanding of the law has a different interpretation than I do. If sexual orientation were actually a federally protected “class” and this applied to airlines operating flights to/from the US, then I’d be curious to see how a case like this turns out.

What do you make of this DOT complaint against Saudia?

  1. Saudi Arabia also doesn’t permit visible displays of any unislamic religious artifacts (eg. crucifix, etc..). There would be a better case to be made by a Christian transiting via Saudi Arabia because that IS is statutorily protected class.

  2. good for her, i hope she wins!

    also, the agent’s answer was stupid… he should have just told her to comply with “local laws” while in Saudi Arabia… but too late for him, hopefully this case changes something!

  3. The way I see it, the airline wasn’t “subjecting” her to hide her sexual orientation but rather one employee on the phone not the airline as a whole was simply advising the woman, from her own experience not from any set rules that Saudia hold.

  4. Well, if the DoT acts on this one I think we can expect UA/DL/AA coming forth with cases against EY,EK,QR as they can’t seem to “get them” on anything else

  5. Some of the previous comments are extremely ignorant and prejudiced.
    As a Saudi citizen, I totally agree that we have some wacky laws that make no sense to many, I’m even opposed to many of these laws. But lets just be a bit reasonable here.
    Forget the country and the airlines for a second and ask yourself this question, what is the problem here?
    Is it a passenger being subjected to discrimination, or is it someone just looking for trouble?
    The article states that the passenger voluntarily mentioned being openly gay without being asked and that she was simply a little bit of advice that she may or may not adhere to. At no point was she denied a ticket to fly Saudia, told that she would be unwelcome, nor threatened to be persecuted. Then she takes it from here and turns it into a full blown human rights issue.

    On the other hand, has anyone considered to ask about openly gay people living in Saudi? Trust me, they are much more than you may think and they come from all walks of life, be them foreigners or citizens. The fact of the matter is that discriminatory laws exist in Saudi Arabia (as in most of the Middle Eastern countries) but they are rarely enforced, the threshold to enforce such laws is generally quite high and they require some truly scandalous behavior to be of any threat.
    When was the last time you heard of a gay individual being punished in the Kingdom? I know I haven’t heard of such a thing in quite some time.

    It all comes down to one simple issue, is this a true problem that would warrant a 15-page complaint? or is it a “pseudo-heroic” by someone who thinks they are the new Rosa Parks?

    You decide.

  6. It sounds like a weak case now, but mostly because U.S. law hasn’t caught up. The US needs to add sexual orientation as a federally protected class first.

    Then I would want a case like this to win… but OTOH, what happens if Saudi Arabia stops allowing UA/DL/AA to fly there if they allow unescorted single women on the plane? Despite my opinions about which of those cultural positions is truly more ethical, cultural enforcement could cut both ways.

    Maybe the better answer is, as the first poster mentioned, for people to voluntarily not fly Saudia.

  7. I have to agree with Abdulaziz, what is the harm this woman is experiencing? It seems like she is looking for a fight.

  8. Having once lived in the KSA for 6 or 7 years I am no fan of their laws.
    That being said, this woman is looking for an argument.
    Who cares if she’s gay or straight? And what exactly does she want the the US Government to do, ensure she is treated correctly in the Riyadh(or Jeddah) airport?
    A 15 page complaint?
    has Suadia done anything wrong thus far?
    Just transit and be done with it.

  9. I also agree with Abdulaziz. I’m a gay man, and I wouldn’t have thought of bringing this up. Personally, I think the agent was trying to help out by letting her know the facts. Rather than bringing a lawsuit had this subject come up with me, I just would have said thank you and opted to transfer elsewhere, specifically an airport that offered something significantly less than a 10 hour layover.

  10. Lawyer here. [Taps mic.]

    The woman filing the lawsuit was clearly fishing for a lawsuit to file. It sounds like some lawyer thought that he or she could shake down Saudia in the face of a rapidly changing judicial climate in the U.S., so he found a lesbian to make a dummy booking to Manila on Saudia with a 10 hour layover. Who just randomly asks a customer service rep, “you think I can hold hands with my lesbian partner in the Riyadh airport?” And then when (they think) Saudia offers to settle, they can split up the proceeds and walk away, and all she had to do was call the 1-800 number.

    Look, don’t get me wrong: I’d never fly Saudia Arabian Airlines (for SO many reasons). But this is about as frivolous of a lawsuit as I can think of, and totally without legal or moral merit. She may has well have told the agent, “I’m Orthodox Jewish. I’ll be wearing a yarmulke and carrying around the Talmud. You think I’ll be fine in the Riyadh Airport?”

  11. While I don’t understand her reasoning for wanting to fly Saudia to Manila (or to fly Saudia at all), and of COURSE she knew she was setting herself up for a fight when she went down this path, it takes people like this to effect change. Whatever her intentions (some time in the spotlight, just likes paperwork, has nothing better to do, etc…)–I wouldn’t do it, but I’m glad someone is. As much as I’d like to be, I’m not the first person to stand up for my own rights. It’s something I’m working to change, but in the meantime I’m grateful for people like her who speak up.

  12. +1 what Abdulaziz said.

    Another thought here is that we often see people coming down hard on the laws of Middle Eastern and other repressive countries. But if we truly embrace diversity, shouldn’t we have more respect for the various cultures and religions in the world, which may have rules that are unfamiliar to us? The point of traveling and seeing the world is about new experiences. If we influence everyone to adapt the social standards of US/Western Europe, doesn’t it defeat the point?

  13. She is simply ridiculous,who on earth want to travel through Saudi Arabia??let it be clear Saudi will mot change anything and they will even preffer suspending their flight to the States than allowing Gays holding hands or kissing publicly,the agent just advised her poor him and didnt prevent or refuse her flying.

  14. Not saying I agree or disagree with the laws of any country but I respect them. If I am not comfortable with the laws, actions, etc… of a specific country I just make the decision to not visit it.

  15. @Sid is correct. International air travel will grind to a halt if this woman wins her case.

    By this woman’s logic, unless UA etc. comply with all Saudi laws in all their operations in airports throughout the USA, then they should not be allowed to fly to Riyadh. Completely absurd – and also this sort of thing is quite dangerous as it alienates people, rather than trying to bridge differences.

  16. Ok, fine, I’ll weigh in. And I do so with the usual caution that I haven’t specifically researched the issues involved here, and that there may ultimately prove to be yet undisclosed factual nuances that might be important. Anyway, to proceed . . . .

    First, I think we’re all getting way ahead of ourselves here. I think it’s at least somewhat likely that this woman doesn’t even have the standing to sue at all in the first place. Nothing bad has happened to her. Yet.

    Second, I also think it’s at least probably that the airline won’t be doing (or not doing) anything here. The Saudi authorities will be doing (or not doing) it all. And the Saudi government has sovereign immunity, which means it can’t be sued (subject to what I’m about to say next).

    Third, if the airline (even if it’s state controlled) were refusing to sell gays tickets in the US, we’d be having a completely different discussion!

    Fourth, the airline most definitely doesn’t have to “assure” anyone of anything.

    And last, my goodness but some of you need to brush up on your Civil Rights history. The whole Civil Rights movement was predicated on “looking for trouble,” on provoking attacks. That’s what the Freedom Rides were. That’s what the NAACP’s litigation strategy was. (And you all know who their general counsel was, right? Right?) So, to be clear, being a mercenary plaintiff “looking for trouble” is most definitely 100% non-problematic and, in fact, doesn’t give the airline any “get out of jail card” or defense of any kind whatever.

    So, in the end, there’s nothing really going on here. Except publicity. Which is the whole point!

  17. On one hand, I agree she seems to be looking for a fight.

    On the other hand, real change often doesn’t happen until someone goes looking for a fight. How many years of rough treatment at bars in the West Village happened before some of the people at Stonewall decided they’d had enough?

  18. “The airline representative informed complainant that she could experience difficulties if she were to hold hands with her partner either on the plane or at the airport.” As others have stated I think it was just some airline employee stating her opinion. I don’t think the airline or country would have a problem with her holding hands with anyone.

  19. I agree with what to you’re saying, but may I point out that your comparison is not justified.
    For what your saying to hold true, the airline needs to be discriminatory, which it isn’t. Had the woman attempted to buy a ticket and was refused one on the basis of her homosexuality, then your comparison would be 100% legitimate.

  20. I also agree with Abdulaziz’ well written comment.

    I have frequently traveled to Jeddah and can attest to the fact that there is indeed a gay scene; though, obviously, it’s quite different from Berlin’s. Even Tehran has a lively kernal of a gay community.

    @Nick (the lawyer): I love your trip reports! But please be cautious with overly generalizing. I have colleagues who work in the KSA who are openly Jewish and have always been treated with respect and made to feel welcome.

  21. What difficulties has she experienced flying Saudia? Also, are there reports of people being “roughed up” or hassled on Saudia planes or in a KSA airport in transit for being gay?

    It sounds like an agent told her that it could be easier for her to avoid mentioning she’s gay when dealing with a perceived arch-conservative culture; no one told her that gay people cannot fly Saudia or cannot transit KSA.

  22. Agree with most of the posters here. While of course I don’t like Saudi Arabia’s laws (and so many other countries for that matter), I also don’t think Americans should be allowed to live by American customers regardless of what country they fly to on any particular airline. If I lived in Colorado I shouldn’t expect to not be prosecuted in Indonesia for smoking pot. From a discrimination standpoint, being American doesn’t preclude me from laws not covering certain classes protected in the States. I also think, as others have pointed out, foreign carriers shouldn’t be barred from flying to the US because of their country’s laws and vice versa (Middle eastern countries shouldn’t bar US airlines for flying just because we have different laws).

    If I choose to travel to or through the middle east, I believe it’s best to accommodate local customs just as I would expect foreigners to do in the US (I have no tolerance for a foreigner coming to the US and being misogynistic or denying business to gays for example). And honestly, I’m more leery of traveling to Russia as a gay man right now than the middle east… My boyfriend and I are traveling to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in May and although I don’t like the idea of “hiding” our relationship, I am freely choosing to travel there and would rather be discreet and not cause issues than feel entitled to the rights I enjoy in the US.

  23. @Lucky I think as the tourist, the first thing you need to learn is to respect the law. Aircraft is a territory of the nation of the carrier. They may have bizarre laws ,like not serving alocohoal when fly above their territory , women have to wear mask when landing on their nation….similarly , gay is illegal in many nations, even include some great countries like India or Singapore (surprisingly , Lesbian is legal but gay is not) . We may not agree on what they think, but we just have to realize the fact we can’t change their laws.

  24. @NP Well said. My fiance and I are headed to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in July and while I was a little leery at first about two men checking into a room with a king bed, I realized that it is a non-issue.

  25. As awesome as it would be to live in the world in which countries weren’t run by hateful, discriminatory laws and all people could be free of discrimination regardless of color, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation, this is the reality for that country and you can’t reverse the government’s centuries-old archaic belief system with one piddling lawsuit. You can’t make them comply or WANT to comply with progressive, tolerant laws, and that’s just that. Maybe, one day, tolerance will prevail in the conservative ME countries, but no one is holding their breath. I agree with another previous poster. Maybe she was fishing…unless she put it like this “um. I’m gay and I want to travel with my girlfriend. I know things are conservative there…will that be a problem?” Then it’s her covering her butt.

  26. @Tom – Sorry, I didn’t read your comment, as it was posting while I was typing my own comment.

    Allow me also to apologize to the person typing right now while I am typing. Whatever I did, I didn’t mean to do it.

  27. It does seem like she is looking for a fight more than anything. I can understand if this was her only option (I said understand, not saying even then it is justified) but given there are other, more tolerant options available…

    And for the people saying it will enact change…um, no, it won’t. Any change to a society has to come from within. I mean, does anyone expect anybody in Saudi to be all “Shit, they banned our national airline from flying to the US, we better organize a pride march in downtown Riyadh, stat!”

    Also, given how important US/Saudi relations are (especially these days), I wouldn’t be surprised if there was pressure to get rid of this case.

  28. Apparently, from the posts here, she won’t run much risk of discriminatory treatment for being gay. She WILL be guaranteed discriminatory treatment for being female, e.g. if she tries to drive. But the airline is not on the hook for that.

  29. Amazing.

    Someone kicks up a fuss over an 800 number airline agent candidly advising her that holding same gendered folks holding hands could be problematic on Saudia and in the Riyadh airport.

    Would Ms. Grant have been better served or more satisfied if the agent said “you go girl, hold hands wherever on this planet you want!, and PG rated public displays of affection are just fine too!”.

    I fail to see how a candid explanation of cultural norms – particularly those in place off the aircraft – is discriminatory and not a candid alert.

  30. Forget the whole discrimination angle. Of all the airports in the world – hell, in the region – to choose to transit through, you pick one on Saudi Arabia? Granted, the one in Riyadh isn’t as bad as the one in Jeddah*, but still. The airports in SA just don’t compare to the ones in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha, in terms of food choices, shopping, entertainment, etc.

    *Yes, I know a new airport is being built in Jeddah. Hope they actually do a decent job filling it with nice shops instead of just a nice structure.

  31. I would never ever fly that airline. or go to that part of the world.

    but I think this is an orchestrated plan to extract some deal with that airline.
    you have to be pretty twisted to have a voluntary layover in that country , knowing that you are openly lesbian.

    was she going to display a butch hairstyle with a truckers attire as well? so old and tired already!

  32. Neil S., that’s worth my Best Comment of the Day prize. Well played!

    But Chuck Lesker’s comment about driving is pretty funny as well.

  33. Well, I am a lawyer and I’ll say that the first basis for why the complaint lacks merit–that “sexual orientation” isn’t an enumerated protected class–likely wouldn’t kill the claim. Sexual orientation isn’t protected under Title VII (protection from employment discrimination) either. But numerous federal courts have found that a gay plaintiff can bring a sexual orientation discrimination claim on the theory that the the discrimination was based on gender stereotypes, and thus states a Title VII sex-discrimination claim. I think the same analysis would apply to the DOT’s protected classes.

    At this point this is likely neither here nor there because the complainant has suffered no harm. Its just a single customer service representative opining about what MIGHT happen.

    But, if you read the complaint, the primary relief sought is to compel Saudia to state what restrictions it imposes on LGBT passengers. So the lawyer is looking to set this up for a revised complaint based on facially discriminatory policies of Saudia (assuming Saudia is stupid enough to openly state they discriminate against LGBT passengers)

    Finally, the complaint does NOT SEEK MONETARY relief. So, everyone’s comments that this is just designed to shake down Saudia for money are baseless.

    I agree with Tom that this is a strategic complaint to force reform on Saudia. Much like much of the civil rights movement and impact litigation in general.

    Whether that’s proper when a flag-carrying foreign airline is involved (instead of your own government as in civil rights movement) is a different and more difficult question.

  34. The US has no protections for citizens on the basis of sexual orientation. Some states have those laws (most don’t), but the effects are generally only observed in those states. Federal agencies and contractors are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation (and that’s through executive order only, not federal law, meaning it can be revoked at the whim of the president), but Saudi obviously does not fall into either of those categories.

  35. Did she actually fly and experience discrimination? The law appears clear that an airline cannot discriminate or expose passengers to harm, but unless she actually flew and experienced an injustice, no law was broken. Similarly you cannot sue an airline for a plane crash simply because they admit there is a chance your flight may crash.

  36. Let me just says that I don’t think highly about Saudi Arabia or their laws, but this is moving onto the foreign policy level.

    Enforcing one countries law in another is a slippery slope, that a country claims global jurisdiction over their own citizens banning things that are allowed under local laws can be troublesome enough. Trying to force other countries to allow activities that are banned under their laws smacks a bit of Gun Boat diplomacy.

    Let me just say that I’m not against Gun Boat diplomacy in principle, in fact I believe it might help make the world a better place if used properly and very selectively. Talk softly and carry a very big stick and all that. But the use of such diplomacy is a Political decision, and not one that a court has any place getting involved in.

    @Tom @turgutbey
    While it might have some parallels to the civil right movement, there is one very different factor included. Any action again the plaintiff would take place on Saudi territory, be it on the plane of the ground and would be enforced by the state of Saudia Arabia and not the airline Saudia.

    Saudi Arabia has sovereign immunity and she do not have a legal rights of a citizen in Saudi Arabia unlike the the civil rights activists who were in their own country.

    I’m not a lawyer, but could it not be maid a case of the airline rep advising the plaintiff of local laws that might hamper her travels? How would this be different from a Saudi (the country, not the airline) perspective from a drunk travel that causes trouble on board the flight and brake local law?

  37. I do think the laws in Saudia Arabia are out of the stone age. However,

    * the DOT is not going to act on the basis of one person’s claim about what a call center agent said might happen.

    * While the DOT has fined Saudia before (eg for failing to file paperwork indicating that they were exempt from filing paperwork related to new routes under the US-Saudi Arabia Open Skies agreement) there’s no way that DOT is going to take the lead in US foreign policy here. No. Way.

    * The US has AN OPEN SKIES AGREEMENT with Saudi Arabia. The US government does not deem the nation’s laws to be an impediment to air travel on the nation’s carriers.

  38. I will not even pretend that I can top what Abdulaziz wrote this morning. So let me make a different point:

    Everyone reading this blog travels and/or lives overseas. Do you know how the foreigners often give a kind of figurative “groan” when American tourists show up? Well, this lawsuit is Exhibit A. Once again, here come the culturally insensitive Americans, with their “white glove” test. Treating the rest of the world’s cultures like they are children who need to be disciplined by the superior Americans is really distasteful.

    The hilarious part is that in this case she didn’t actually experience travel problems, so she is suing because she wants the airline to ensure an “upset free zone” around her when she flies. Can we say “law firm’s publicity stunt?”

  39. While she was clearly fishing, the question remains interesting.

    Does her rights end when she boards the flight?

    If for example the airline had a policy of seating pax according to their race; certain races in front and others behind, do we simply tolerate it?

    Which policies do we tolerate and which do we ignore?

  40. I don’t see what discrimination she has suffered from unless there are additional elements in the 15 page complaints. She asked if should could have certain behaviors and was told doing it could trigger some trouble. How is that discriminatory?
    There is absolutely nothing wrong by the airline so far.

    As some said, it would be a different issue if the airline had refused to sell her a ticket or accept her onboard due to her sexual orientation. It’s not the case.

    There are many countries in the world where LGBT are exposed to discrimination and legal actions. US Airlines also fly to such countries so by the same logic she is using, US airlines should stop flying to any country where they cannot guarantee that their passenger will not suffer from discrimination. Ridiculous. And More so as no one (be it a company, a person or a state) can guarantee that someone is not going to be the subject of some discrimination.

    Now if we move away from the gay question here and apply the very same logic to another particular situation. If a potential passenger calls an airline flying to or transiting through Indonesia and that passenger called the helpline and said he regularly consumes drugs and plans to smoke weed at the Jakarta airport. Would it be a problem and a ground for complain if the airline replied that they recommend him not to smoke weed at the Jakarta airport as such a practice could expose him to problems? Is that not what any airlines should respond to such a query?

    This is RIDICULOUS.

    And it’s aimed at an airline, not at a government so I do not see how this is going to put pressure on Saudi Arabia in any way as a country. If someone somewhere sues United or Delta over things that may happen to them if they transit in the US, would the US government feel threatened or feel the need to even consider the situation???

  41. I agree with Abdaliz (sp?) I think somebody is looking for trouble and ca$h from a lawsuit. Sorry…. I have no respect for this behavior.

  42. @TheRealBabushka

    If it’s Airline policy than probably no, if how ever it was because the government that gave the airline it’s carrier license that required it then things become more difficult.

    When you step on board a carrier from another country you are in practical terms on foreign territory as soon as it leaves US Airspace and US laws would no longer apply.

    A domestic flight is off course different.

    Interesting question, on 5 freedom flights what countries laws apply? Say the CX flight from NYC to the west coast of Canada? Also what of tag on inside the US like like Qantas flight you took from the West Coast with your father?

  43. Putting aside that sexual orientation is not a protected status under US anti-discrimination laws, her lawyer needs to brush up on the principle of extraterritoriality. She claims harm based on what might happen to her when she transits Saudi Arabia. US anti-discrimination laws also do not apply to the actions of a foreign entity on foreign soil (irrespective of whether they involve a US citizen).

  44. As turgutbey says, the litigant doesn’t want money from this action, so claiming that she just wants a payday is rubbish. Also, on matters of human and civil rights, if you don’t fight, you lose. So I don’t see why there’s so much vitriol against her.

    That said, I still think she will struggle in this case. Apart from what law applies on the Saudi flagged aircraft, it’s clear that as soon as she lands that she, like everyone else, will be subject to Saudi law during transit at Riyadh, no matter what Saudia thinks about it. Unless she thinks that US law should apply globally (that should be popular), then it’s hard to see how this action will achieve much. As much as I want discrimination to end, I don’t see how she will get that result in this action.

    @Bill (April 29, 2015 at 6:13 pm) Oh, well done. So clever.

  45. This isn’t a case of just not liking different customs; Saudi Arabia is one of a handful of countries that retains and executes the death penalty for cases of same-sex intercourse. Just because there’s an underground gay scene, it doesn’t mean that the situation is anything other perilous and life-threatening for LGBTQ Saudis.

  46. Justice Roberts tipped his hand on how this would fall into a protected class:“I’m not sure it’s necessary to get into sexual orientation to resolve this case,” he said. “I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

  47. This is just too much. Nobody is going to change the religious rules in foreign countries by filing frivolous attention whore lawsuits. If the plaintiff is so offended, why is she flying a middle eastern airline in the first place?

  48. When travelling to or transiting a foreign country respect the laws of the country concerned or face the potential consequences. If you don’t like or agree with the law go somewhere else or transit elsewhere, its that simple. Just like foreign nationals in the USA or transiting the USA are subject to USA laws, for example smoking in most public areas is prohibited in most if not all USA airports, however it maybe permissible to smoke in certain areas of a foreign nationals home airport, if the foreign national smokes in the transit area of USA airport where smoking is prohibited they can expect to receive a fine and / or do jail time even if the foreign national feels that they should be able to smoke if they chose.
    The representative at Saudia Airlines was just giving advice, if the complaining person choses not take the advice that’s their choice and if their a law against doing what they want to in the host country then they should be subject to the applicable law.

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