Recently a lesbian couple were enjoying a coffee outside of a Tim Hortons in Blenheim Ontario when they were asked to leave the premises because they were going “beyond public displays of affection and were making other guests feel uncomfortable”. But according to the couple, it was not because of their over-the-top PDA that got them booted, it was “because they were lesbians”.
As a result – according to this kijiji posting – a nation-wide protest has been scheduled for “Thurs Oct 27th for a public demonstration against the discriminatory practices of this Tim Hortons location.”
There are, of course, mixed reports as to exactly what happened. According the the couple and their friends, it was a minister who “felt it necessary to stare them down” before talking to the Tim Hortons manager who in turn asked the couple to leave. The couple claim that they were holding hands and had kissed, but according to the reports from the employees and other customers, the couple were “making out”. The couple claim that “as they left, the pastor at a local church allegedly held a prayer circle with more than a dozen people in the parking lot to ‘pray for the couple’s souls.'” A spokesperson from the ministers church said the minister “didn’t even know it was two women… there was no stare-down, no prayers . . .and now he’s getting death threats.” He goes on to say “The reverend was there with his family and the couple were on top of each other, making out”, but the couple deny they were “groping each other” (they only admit to holding hands, petting and kissing each other).
Tim Hortons has officially responded to the situation:
“The guests’ behaviour went beyond public displays of affection and was making other guests feel uncomfortable. The management has apologized to Riley and Patricia and invite them back to their restaurant. We apologize if (they) were offended by the misunderstanding that occurred at our Blenheim restaurant last month on behalf of the owners and management. It was not the manager’s intention to offend or target anyone based on their sexual orientation.”
CTV reported that “while the chain is apologizing to Riley Duckworth, 25, of London, and her partner Patricia Pattenden, 23, for what it calls a misunderstanding, Duckworth says she is not satisfied.” (Italics mine.) As of Monday morning over 300 people signed up to protest outside of Tim Hortons in Blenheim, not including those who were encouraged across the country to protest at the Tim Hortons near them. It will be interesting to read any report of loss revenue – if any – the national chain reports that day.
A few thoughts.
The first thing that strikes me about this situation is that from what I see in the media, on social media sites and in person (signs and all): gay people don’t like to be thought of in terms of their sexual orientation. They are not “gay people”, they are people who happen to be gay. But in this situation these two ladies are clamouring to make this situation about their sexual orientation rather than what the situation is really about, inappropriate displays of affection in a family friendly business.
The second thing that strikes me is that the restaurant apologized and invited the couple back, followed by an apology by the chain, none of which satisfied the couple. This makes me wonder what would satisfy the couple?
The third thing that strikes me can be summed up in the phrase, “overkill”. The kijiji posting says that they will be publicly demonstrating “against the discriminatory practices of this Tim Hortons location.” What discriminatory “practices” of Tim Hortons are we talking about? First it is doubtful that what happened in Blenheim had anything to do with discrimination. Second, lets assume that it did for a moment, what we have is one single event from one manager which can hardly be said to be representative of “this Tim Horton’s” routine practice, and not at all representative of Tim Hortons as a company.
Fourthly, it is no small point to make that the minister admits that he did not realize he was watching two women when he saw the PDA going on. How could the situation be about discriminating against a gay couple if the one who allegedly started the situation had not realized it was a gay couple?
Fifth: death threats? I suppose this is the kind of reaction we’ve come to expect. The minister is a discriminating bigot because someone thinks he discriminated against a gay couple, but death threats, there’s nothing wrong with that?
Sometimes it’s not about someone’s sexual orientation, or race, or religion. Sometimes it is simply about other non-prejeducial reasons. Like, for example, an inappropriate display of affection.
Every day I get a coffee from Tim Hortons. I think Thursday I’ll be sure to get two.