Is PDA ever OK?

A gay couple says they were kicked out of a mall for doing what everyone else does there: Smooching and shopping

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published March 5, 2013 9:08PM (EST)

       (<a href=''>RapidEye</a> via <a href=''>iStock</a>)
(RapidEye via iStock)

In an apparent total lack of understanding of what happens when people go to shopping malls, a California security guard this weekend kicked out a young couple for holding hands and kissing at the Westfield Galleria. I ask you, America, if the day is at hand when we can't walk around kissing our boyfriends at the mall, are they going to clamp down on getting our ears pierced and buying a Cinnabon there, too?

The ejection doesn't seem to have been entirely motivated by their public display of affection. It is worth noting that the smoochy couple singled out by security happens to be gay. Daniel Chesmore, 21, told the local Sacramento Fox affiliate this week, "I kissed him on the cheek. That’s how my boyfriend and I show affection." And, he said, "This is exactly what we did at the mall on Saturday." Chesmore adds that when he and his boyfriend, Jose Guzman, were confronted by a security guard, the man told them, "If you continue to kiss, you will be asked to leave the mall. Period … I counted you guys kissing 25 times." The couple also produced an audio of the guard telling them, "I told you before, we contact any couple" about this behavior.

Sticking by its actions, the Galleria's general manager Eddie Ollmann released a statement this week saying, "Persons that violate the Code of Conduct are asked to leave the property." But the Galleria's Code of Conduct has no such written rule. And when Fox40 went to the mall over the weekend, retail security seemed undisturbed by the sight of "dozens of straight couples … holding hands and smooching, right out in the open" over a period of several hours. After the story appeared, a local commenter on the Fox site affirmed, "I've seen much more questionable behavior at the Galleria, including inappropriate groping (in front of security, mind you), and nobody ever says anything. Guess it's all good as long as they give the mall cops a show."

Had Chesmore and Guzman really exceeded some mall limit when they kissed over 25 times? Did they continue to do so after being told to cool it? Barring the evidence of security footage, it's unknown. But both men, tutors at an elementary school, say they're used to keeping their shows of affection restrained because they're around children so much. They describe their actions as simple hand-holding and cheek-kissing.

But the Fox commenter's remark about groping raises an interesting question. Whether a couple is gay or straight, is there ever a point at which it's acceptable, nay, desirable, for enforcement to step in and say, "Get a room"? And if the answer is yes, can we get the makeout police out of the malls and into, say, any bar that offers Jäger shots? Can we assign them to late-night public transportation? Because if you really want to bounce people from general society for having a little kissy time, I seriously doubt that the Hot Dog on a Stick stand at the Westfield Galleria is your biggest  trouble zone. I have difficulty believing that things are getting a little too handsy among the weekend patrons at the Banana Republic.

It's possible that the Galleria security really did feel things were getting out of control between Chesmore and Guzman. It looks far likelier, however, that the couple was singled out for the crime of being affectionate in public while homosexual. Perhaps the guard was thinking of the delicate sensitivities of shoppers like the Fox commenter who noted, "Please, not in front of my kids. It's hard enough for kids to understand the male-female relationship, they don't need to be confused at an early stage of their life." Yeah, so could you guys just not be gay around children? They might ask questions and then their parents would have to explain stuff like love to them, and that's exhausting.

"In a perfect world," Chesmore says, "there would be no difference in treatment between straight couples and gay couples." And in a perfect world, everybody – young and old, gay and straight, would be able to stroll freely together on a Saturday, hanging at the Abercrombie & Fitch in a climate-controlled utopia of tolerance.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Homophobia Kissing Lgbt Public Displays Of Affection Retail Sex Shopping Tolerance