Daniel Chesmore and Jose Guzman had no idea how a kiss on the cheek would eventually draw the attention of many. They just knew they liked each other and the peck on the cheek was one way to express it. Like many couples in the Westfield Galleria, a mall in Roseville, California, the two were holding hands and occasionally one would kiss the other on the cheek. There were no long languishing kisses on the mouth. In fact, no kisses on the mouth at all. Many other couples were doing the same, holding hands and occasionally showing a small loving public display of affection.
Daniel and Jose were no ordinary couple and that’s where the problem begins. They were gay, two males showing affection in a local mall. The security guard told them to quit, then asked them to leave stating it was against mall policy. The couple recorded their conversation with him.
Fox 40, part of a network well known for its conservative slant to the news, investigated after hearing the story. The reporter talked to the two men and listened to a recording the men made after the security guard approached them. The men played it while Fox’s cameras were running. They decided to investigate further.
Fox40 first went undercover to see if other couples were also asked to leave if found kissing, holding hands or showing other public displays of affection. They waited as they watched dozens of couples, all of whom were straight, holding hands and kissing, yet the security guards never approached any of them to request they cease the behavior or leave the mall.
Investigating further, the station called on the general manager of Galleria, Eddie Ollmann, but he declined a personal interview. Instead, Ollmann released the following statement:
“Persons that violate the Code of Conduct are asked to leave the property.“
Fox investigated the Mall’s code of conduct and found nothing that remotely spoke to public displays of affection. It was obvious to all that this was clearly all about the couple being different. While many who listened to the news were incensed at the unfair treatment resulting in singling out a specific couple because of sexual preference, one woman decided to do something about it.
Beverly Kearney knew she had to do more than empathize, so she began a movement on Facebook called “Love Is Love.” She, joined by several others, wanted to show disapproval of the unfair and biased treatment the two men received. The group planned a gathering in the mall where the incident occurred. The idea may have started out to be a small gathering of likeminded friends, but within 24 hours grew to well over 500 whom RSVP’ed their intention to join. Some who joined have felt the hate and contention for being different, while others never have and simply hate injustice.
The group attending the protest varies dramatically in their outlooks, beliefs and even sexual preferences. There are lesbians, gays, transgender, bisexual and straight people attending. There’s even a group whom refer to themselves as queer, because they simply fit into none of the other groups mentioned.
In a phone interview with Ms. Kearney, she said they chose the name “Love is Love” because they don’t want their show of support to the gay couple to appear controversial. They plan to meet on Saturday March 9 at 11:00am PST at the mall. The group plans the gathering to be a peaceful protest where they simply show their solidarity, pass out flyers, let the management know they will not accept intolerance and discrimination and then leave.
When asked if they would boycott the stores in the mall, Ms. Kearney responded, “We are not trying to punish the retailers because of the actions of the mall management and its security.” She indicated the group simply wants to draw attention to the inequitable treatment of specific members of society. While some compared Jose and Daniel to Rosa Parks, whose actions called attention to the unjust treatment of blacks in the south, others simply felt the two were just a small sampling of what occurs on a daily basis.
Late last night Kearney sent a message to everyone attending to identify the mood, behavior and code of conduct to keep the demonstration peaceful and dignified. She also outlined the goals:
1) We want the Galleria management to know that we are here – we will not go away – and we will not stand for intolerance and discrimination.
2) We want to send a message that ALL love is valid, that all people matter, and that we are all equal.
3) We want the Galleria to ensure that all of their staff and management have effective, comprehensive cultural competency training.
4) We would like an appropriate apology – to Daniel and Jose – and to the community as a whole – that actually addresses and takes accountability for their actions.
5) We would like for the Galleria to make a substantial donation to an organization that is geared towards LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex) youth. It Gets Better, The Trevor Project, and the like.
6) We want our children and youth to know that it does get better, that there is a community here for them, to love and embrace them when they are ready to come out.
7) We want our children to know that they are perfectly okay – just as they are.
8) We do not seek, nor will we condone, personal or character attack against the security guard, as we do not know his exact reasoning for his initial behavior. This is not about him and his mistake. This is about what is accepted behavior within a particular company.”
The goal of “Love Is Love” is to bring public attention to the situation in a loving, peaceful manner, hoping it will enlighten at least a few. They want to send a message that everyone, regardless of sexual identity matters and all love is valid.
Love is Love. Roseville Galleria Protest.
Fox40: Gay Couple Asked to Leave Mall for Holding Hands, Kissing
Telephone Interview with Beverly Kearney