A group of gay men and lesbians staying in an airport hotel in Atlanta say a security guard asked them to leave a cocktail lounge because it was “reserved for families and others.”
The group of five, which includes the president of a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, complained to the general manager of the Westin Atlanta Airport Hotel, which sits next to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, according to the Washington Blade.
The incident took place in April and the hotel guests, including K. David Weidner, said as he and two gay men and two lesbians returned from Montgomery, Ala., to attend a funeral, they toasted their friend with a cocktail in a hotel lounge. But a security guard asked them to leave and said the area was for families, Weidner told the Blade:
Before being asked to leave the lounge the group ordered a round of drinks, which a friendly server brought to their table, Weidner told Henderson in his letter. “But she was barely out of sight and we had barely a chance to toast our departed friend when a gentlemen approached our table and identified himself as the director of security,” Weidner said in his letter.
“He said in a rather direct and impolite tone that ‘we would have to remove ourselves from the table, as this area is reserved for families and others.’”
According to Weidner’s account, the security official then said they could enjoy their beverages in a nearby room called the “Revivals” area, which the group later described as a poorly lit space with two dirty tables.
“The five of us looked at each other – we were absolutely stunned,” Weidner said in his letter. “I asked the director of security to define ‘families and others.’ He replied that our party was ‘not welcome to sit at this reserved space, but that we would be welcome in the Revivals area,” Weidner said in his letter to Henderson. “He never did explain what ‘families and others’ meant.”
But the hotel, which is part of Starwood Westin Hotels, apologized for the incident and said the group was asked to leave the lounge when one of its members brought in their own food.
In response to an inquiry from the Blade, Katie Roberts, an official with a public relations firm representing the Starwood Westin Hotels chain, said the company has a strict policy of non-discrimination and is especially welcoming to the LGBT community.
“The interaction with Mr. Weidner’s group was most unfortunate and poorly handled by the Westin Atlanta Airport associate, but it was in no way discriminatory,” Roberts said in a statement.
“The only reason Mr. Weidner’s group was asked to move to another area was because they had brought in food from the outside into an area where the hotel serves food,” she said. “Starwood has zero tolerance of discrimination of any kind.”
Starwood, based in Stamford, Conn., has received a perfect score on HRC's Corporate Equality Index, which grades companies on non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, LGBT diversity and inclusion, public commitment to LGBT equality and responsible citizenship.
Weidner told the Blade that he's skeptical of the hotel's explanation since it didn't respond to him until media inquiries were made about the incident. He said he's exploring filing a complaint against the hotel under Atlanta's non-discrimination ordinance and Human Relations Commission.