Last week, a gay couple was “kicked out of a California mall for kissing and holding hands, even though the center’s staff apparently do not prohibit straight couples from showing similar public displays of affection,” according to The Huffington Post. They note that “After the story went public, critics flocked to the Facebook page for the Westfield Galleria at Roseville and condemned the mall’s alleged anti-gay actions.” In response, mall officials released a statement saying, “All of our customers are welcome, and all are welcome equally — including those displaying affection. We do have rules and occasionally our security officers approach customers, inform them of the rules, and ask them to comply. We’re sorry for any misperceptions with regard to the incident reported upon yesterday. At Westfield, we celebrate the diversity of our employees, shoppers and community, and will continue to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for all.” Nothing in the mall’s rule book prohibits kissing and holding hands, so it seems clear to many that this incident is a sign of homophobia on the part of mall security.
Corbyn Hightower, a writer and mother who lives near the Westfield Galleria has written a lovely response to this unfortunate incident for HuffPo’s Gay Voices section. In it she describes herself as an “incognito queer,” a woman who appears straight with a husband and three kids — one of whom she co-parents with her female ex-partner. She says her husband, kids and ex “became a family group, very alternative and quite queer.” Hightower writes:
The situation that unfolded at the Westfield Galleria, in which a gay couple was asked to leave for “excessive” PDA, has me feeling confused and sad. I’m permitted the dubious ability to “pass” as straight in this town where alternative families aren’t common. I can and do spend lots of time at the mall, filled as it is with children’s diversions such as a carousel and several playgrounds. They’ve got areas for comfortable breastfeeding (even marked as such!), bathrooms where dads can change the diapers too, and a rollerskating rink in the winter. The thought that this pleasant haven is a place where my ex and her partner would be discouraged from holding hands and kissing sickens me.
A “kiss-in” has been scheduled for tomorrow at the mall, and according to the Westfield Galleria’s Facebook page, mall spokespeople “embrace” the protest. I hope to share pictures from the event with you on Monday.
Photo credit: Tara Baxter