ROSEVILLE, Calif. — Hundreds of gay rights advocates staged a “kiss in” and peaceful protest at a California mall on Saturday where just one week earlier, a gay couple said they were ejected for holding hands and kissing each other.
An estimated 250 people gathered at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, Calif. to protest the March 2 incident.
“We have every right, just as everyone else does, to feel comfortable in our own skin, loving our partners,” said Robert Woodward, who attended the event titled “Love is Love.”
Last week, Daniel Chesmore, 21, and Jose Guzman, 24, said they were confronted by a security guard at the mall and asked to leave after the couple exchanged a kiss.
The couple recorded the security guard, who told them, “If you continue to kiss, you will be asked to leave the mall. Period,” the voice on the recording said. “I told you before, we contact any couple, any couple [...] about this.”
But in a follow-up investigation, KXTL-TV said it spotted dozens of straight couples sitting inside of the Galleria, holding hands and kissing in public, and as hours passed, not one couple was asked to leave the mall.
Westfield Mall initially apologized for the incident on Tuesday, but later defended the guard’s actions, saying the couple’s “sexually explicit” behavior violated its code of conduct.
On Friday, mall management released a third statement, noting that it was “exploring new and constructive ways to partner with leading, local LGBT organizations.”
On Saturday, Keith Kaplan, the company’s vice president of development, told attendees at the kiss-in that “everyone is welcome here at Westfield,” and that the mall welcomed the event.
“We are happy they are here. We want everyone to enjoy themselves here and feel comfortable,” says Stephanie Ringey, a Galleria spokeswoman.
Organizers said they were glad the mall allowed the protest to occur.
“Westfield has made efforts to correct the action,” said event organizer Beverly Kearney told KXTL-TV. “But I hope that every person who has heard this story will stand up and fight for equality.”
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