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Very Real

White Woman Says Southwest Airlines Demanded Proof Biracial Son Was Hers

Lindsay Gottlieb says ticket counter personnel asked to see a birth certificate proving she was the mother of her child.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Lindsay Gottlieb, a women’s basketball coach at the University of California, says she was asked for proof that her biracial son was actually hers while flying Southwest Airlines.

Gottlieb tweeted that she was boarding a flight on Monday from Denver to Oakland with her infant son when a Southwest employee confronted her about her son. Gottlieb is white, while her fiancé and child’s father, Patrick Martin, is black.

“I’m appalled that after approx. 50 times flying with my 1-year-old son, ticket counter personnel told me I had to ‘prove’ that he was my son, despite having his passport. She said because we have different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin color,” she wrote.

It didn’t end there, according to Gottlieb.

“She 1st asked for proof with a birth certificate,” she continued. “She then said it was a ‘federal law’ but asked me to prove I was the mother with a Facebook post. What?? The mother next to me said she’s never been asked for proof diff last name…not shockingly, not mixed face family.”

In a statement to USA Today, Gottlieb called the experience “uncomfortable and hurtful.”

“I felt that in this situation it was my responsibility to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t OK,’” Gottlieb said. “We had a passport that verified our son’s age and identity, and both parents were present. But still being pushed further to ‘prove’ that he was my son felt disrespectful and motivated by more than just concern for his well-being.”

Southwest apologized for the incident in a statement to KPIX 5, a CBS station out of Los Angeles.

“We’re looking into this specific interaction, and we have engaged with the customer directly to address her concerns,” their statement reads. “Our employees are well regarded for their hospitality and we always strive for the best experience for anyone who entrusts us with their travel.”

Gottlieb told KPIX 5 that she did not believe the incident reflected Southwest’s attitude, explaining, “I suspect it was just one insensitive employee. It hurt my feelings. It made me feel a little bit less than and it’s not okay.”

Model Chrissy Teigen, who shares two biracial children with husband John Legend, commented on the incident via Twitter, suggesting a logical explanation for what Gottlieb experienced.

“airlines have asked this of me, too, with my daughter. once I learned it’s a precaution for the very real threat of child trafficking, I stopped being exasperated with it. Now I’m kind of worried when they don’t ask,” Teigen wrote.

[Photo: California Golden Bears head coach Lindsay Gottlieb at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut on Friday, November 17, 2017. By Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS via Getty Images]