How tolerant are you of gay and lesbian public displays of affection?
Earlier this week, a Black couple was kicked out of a Phoenix restaurant after they were spotted canoodling at their table. It was their anniversary, and they were celebrating the occasion at the venue where they first met. “I had my arm around her neck, and she had her hand around my waist,” recalled one-half of the couple. “I gave her a hug for about a minute, pulled myself away to give her a quick kiss, and then we continued talking.” Before they could look at their menus, a restaurant manager allegedly approached and asked them to leave, claiming they were making other restaurant patrons uncomfortable.
It sounds like a standard greeting between any blissful couple, hardly the type of PDA that would raise an eyebrow. So what was the problem, exactly? It happened that the couple — Kenyata White and Aiemee Diaz — were both women.
This isn’t the first time this week a gay couple has been in the news for showing affection in public. When Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan returned home after a six-month tour in Afghanistan, he was excited to see his partner Dalan Wells. Morgan greeted him with a bear hug — he jumped up and wrapped his legs around Wells — and gave him a passionate smooch that was caught on camera. The picture has since gone viral, and while many viewers support the image and what it represents, there are many others, even those who claim to support the LGBT community, who are flatly appalled by their pubic display.
This kind of ire is rarely expressed for heterosexual couples, especially as one of America’s most iconic images, taken on V-J Day in 1945, shows a jubilant sailor planting a passionate kiss on a young nurse in Times Square. That image is so popular that on the 65th anniversary of the Allied victory in Japan that ended World War II, a 26-foot statue of the kissing couple was displayed in Manhattan to mark the occasion.
Clearly, the fuss over these most recent public displays has everything to do with the sexual orientation of the couples, not just the affection shown. As America slowly moves in a direction of tolerance for the LGBT community, it seems that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military has been replaced with social outlook akin to “do what you will, as long as it’s behind closed doors.”
It’s just unfair. The outrage over these two incidents is hardly warranted. A couple greeting each other with a hug and kiss is completely normal, and although jumping on your partner in public might be taking things a little far, I can’t think of a better time that it should be overlooked than when someone is returning from serving this country. I’ve seen heterosexual couples do so much worse in movie theatres, in clubs, and even up against the side of buildings, and no one interrupts them or even gawks. If we’re going to claim tolerance of LGBT couples (and yes, we should), then we need to actually be tolerant and accept that non-hetero couples get affectionate, too — just like us.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk