Public displays of affection (PDAs) — okay for straight people but not LGBTs? You could be forgiven for thinking that after glancing at the news recently.
One gay couple, Daniel Chesmore, 21, and Jose Juzman, 24, say they were humiliated at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, California, on Saturday March 2, when they were reprimanded for an innocent kiss: Chesmore kissed Juzman on the cheek. The security guard who approached them alleged he had seen them kissing 25 times. They deny this.
When a security guard confronted the couple about it at the Galleria, they began recording.
“If you continue to kiss, you will be asked to leave the mall. Period,” the voice on the recording said. “I counted you guys kissing 25 times. I told you before, we contact any couple [...] about this.”
Whatever you might think about public displays of affection, we can agree that having different rules for same-sex couples compared to opposite gender couples amounts to blatant discrimination.
FOX40 spotted dozens of straight couples sitting inside of the Galleria, holding hands and smooching, right out in the open. And as the hours passed, not one couple FOX40 witnessed was asked to leave the mall.
Fox40 goes on to say that the mall’s general manager, Eddie Ollmann, released a written statement saying that “Persons that [sic] violate the Code of Conduct are asked to leave the property.”
No public displays of affection provision exists in the handbook, so it is unclear what the manager is referring to. California state law is clear, however, that discrimination against gay people is unlawful.
Perhaps mindful of this, the mall’s administration issued a new statement on Tuesday, saying that the couple was (emphasis mine) “violating the rules and the security officer requested the sexually explicit conduct be stopped. The couple was not asked to leave, because the conduct did stop.”
The Tuesday statement goes on to assure that heterosexual couples would have been asked to leave had they been engaging in “similar conduct.” The mall’s administration flatly denies the couple were discriminated against on grounds of their sexual orientation. However, the mall has so far refused to outline exactly what constitutes “sexually explicit” conduct, and it seems there is a duty for them to state exactly what it was this gay couple was doing that was different from the straight couples who were seen kissing and holding hands during Fox40′s sleuthing.
The matter could also be resolved by the mall releasing its security tapes. Presumably they would show exactly the kind of conduct that, for them, was so egregious. No word on whether that will be happening.
The gay community isn’t buying what the mall is selling on this one, though, and said mall felt the community’s wrath. LGBTs and their allies decided to protest the perceived injustice in this story with a lip-locking frenzy: that’s right, a kiss-in was planned for Saturday, March 9.
This unfortunately isn’t an isolated incident, either.
A young lesbian couple in Texas is this week fighting back after a valentine’s yearbook photo of them holding one another — yes, holding one another — was cut because, apparently, the school administration found it to be an overt public display of affection that is banned under the Northside ISD policy. (The wisdom of holding a Valentine’s Day tribute in the yearbook but not allowing public displays of affection is a different, but certainly salient, issue.)
There’s a fly in the ointment, however. The photograph allegedly raised exactly zero eyebrows when school administrators thought that 16-year-old Felicia Rivera and her girlfriend, Lialani Hernandez, 17, were a straight couple. Hernandez wears her hair long and sweeping across her face. In the photo, which can be seen here, Hernandez’s gender is not immediately obvious.
The administration is denying that there is any discrimination in this case. Fortunately, Rivera’s dad is made of awesome and he is taking the school to task, saying he will buy the yearbook and personally go through it page by page to observe exactly what standard the straight couples were judged by and whether in fact any gay couples made the yearbook. He is also reportedly helping his daughter set up an equality club at Brennan High School.
Repeatedly we have seen LGBTs being held to a different standard of propriety when it comes to public displays of affection, and it is time this sly anti-gay discrimination is curtailed because it trades on the notion that anything LGBT is by virtue a purely sexual act whereas the heterosexual kiss, operating as the norm, is automatically judged to be inoffensive and wholesome. Anyone who has ever had the displeasure to see straight teenagers hoovering each other’s faces unchallenged can attest this is not necessarily so.