DURHAM, N.C. — A gay man from the Raleigh-Durham area was accosted by authorities at the regional airport after a United Airlines employee accused him of having his hand “near the genitals” of his five-year-old son. Henry Amador-Batten is a prominent figure in the Carolinas’ LGBTQ community, and feels outraged at his treatment.
“So many gay fathers and fathers are fearful of being accused of something like this,” Amador-Batten told the Herald-Sun. “Society has an idea that gay men are pedophiles. He pointed a finger and made me feel like a monster with no proof.”
In fact, after police questioning at the Raleigh-Durham airport gate, authorities determined that Amador-Batten was not a threat, and released him after an hour. The accusation was made by an employee on the flight who witnessed five-year-old Ben sleeping against his father, with Amador-Batten’s arm resting across the child’s blanket-covered lap. Ben and Henry were returning from Puerto Rico, where Henry’s father had fallen ill and died during their visit.
Henry and Joel Amador-Batten have been together since 2007 and adopted their son, Benjamin, in 2011. The family is in the process of adopting another son, but they fear that the airline controversy may throw a wrench in the process.
“We have one child in foster care whose adoption is not finalized yet, and these are the kinds of allegations that are far-reaching and long-lasting,” Henry told Daily News.
The Amador-Battens have long been active in the local LGBTQ community, founding a group called DADsquared which provides support to LGBTQ parents. The organization’s website provides resources for gay parents nationwide. The group has hosted social events for the families and offers community discourse through its Facebook page.
Henry also recruited testimonies for a Family Equality Council initiative last year which sought to document the experiences of these families. In 2015, he worked with author Hogan Hilling to compile stories of gay fatherhood for a new book, “Dads Behaving Dadly: Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Gay Dads.”
The incident, the Amador-Battens feel, has yet to be adequately addressed. United Airlines did have a representative contact the family to offer an apology — but the fathers agree that it was an insufficient gesture.
“[The representative] just wanted to make the problem go away. She asked me if I would keep it ‘low key’,” Henry Amador-Batten told the New York Post, adding, “I don’t know how anyone could consider that an apology.”
“We will not keep quiet while you conduct your internal investigation,” Joel Amador-Batten wrote on Facebook. “My husband and I will continue to use our own voices… to shout as loud as we can that an individual who is the face of a company, and therefore of its standards and practices, cannot just accuse someone of something so dreadful as child molestation without any sort of investigation.”
The family has hired a lawyer, Kenneth Padowitz, to negotiate with the airline. Padowitz plans to seek restitution, and if an acceptable agreement isn’t reached soon, the case will go to court.
“I think words are cheap and actions matter,” Padowitz said. “If you are going to put someone in that humiliating position in front of their 5-year-old son, you need to rectify it.”