Sometimes a Gay Issue is not a Gay Issue

Derek Ouellette —  October 24, 2011

I am about to touch on an issue I almost always try to avoid. This is one of those “hot potatoes” that Tony Campolo is always talking about.

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.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • geneinne

    I loved your article Derek….and I agree, besides the issue of gay or not gay there are times when I have wanted to say…’ rent a room!’ and yes, I’ve been told that these are just natural displays of affection whereby this makes me a prude if I choose not to have to be audience to it…and to that I say, ‘ a bowel movement is a natural display but I don’t care to watch that either!

  • Michele Gibson

    People are people first and people’s actions in public if inappropriate, must be addressed. Period. Tim Horton’s was wrong to apologize. Why do so many people cower when gay people say they have been mistreated because they are gay? They are people, period.

    A family member’s son just married a man and she recently posted a picture of two men kissing next to two undernourished children and the caption said if you think the first picture is more immoral than the second you need help. These two pictures have nothing in common. Period. People who sin habitually wants others to believe that what they do is not sin, but God tells us differently. I choose to believe the one who created the universe and created me. Period.

  • Wendy

    I wholeheartedly agree with both you and Geneinne. I don’t want to see overt displays of affection whether you are gay or not. Maybe I’m a prude as well but there is a sense of decorum lacking nowadays

  • Pastor Mark A Jones

    I agree also. In our day and time, it seems those who are easily offended are using any avenue to express their sinful nature. I for one have contacted managers when ladies were exposing their breasts and breast feeding in family eating establishments with my grandchildren. I ask that they cover themselves if they needed to feed the baby. I was told ‘it is a natural thing to do. Get over it or leave.’ I didn’t return to that business. They closed months later. Rights are rights. Mine is NOT to see and experience some things as it is the right of others to not ‘DO’ things which offend others.

  • Tamara

    I feel that an agenda is being pushed— it’s no longer about sexuality. It is about a show of growing power and support of and for immoral behavior and people want to flaunt it and show that anyone who stands against them will pay for it. This is the trend that I have been seeing and reading every where now. I don’t believe that anyone with morals and self-respects wants to see couples “make-out” in public whether heterosexual or homosexual.

  • Myron

    Great story (as usual), Derek. I have not been able to ascertain this from the web, but I’m curious about HOW and WHEN the minister’s profession became known. Like you and others who have commented, I don’t think this had anything to do with the fact that the women were lesbians. This had to do with their over-the-top display of public affection. Were the women heterosexual, folks more than likely would have had problems with their behavior. In fact, this couple has ZERO proof that the establishment targeted them because they were lesbians. Hence my question about how and when they became aware of the fact that the man who reported them was a minister. Was he wearing a collar or something? It smells to me like these claims of a stare-down and a post-traumatic prayer meeting were manufactured after the fact in order to lend this scenario some anti-gay gravitas. And in light of the establishment’s graciousness, the calls for boycotting/occupation are simply nonsensical publicity-seeking. Like Tamara, I believe this about flooding the public square with ungodly deeds, images, and rhetoric that basically scream: “WE DARE YOU CRITIQUE US!” And upon being critiqued folks follow up with: “LOOK, THEY’RE INTOLERANT–LET’S GET ‘EM!” It is truly sad that the redemptive activism of folks like Martin Luther King has quickly devolved into this godless spectacle.

  • Louis

    I am a 34 year old gay Christian.
    I have been invloved with my partner for over 8 years being in a commited relationship.
    Our values in life is to respect others the way we would like to be respected. My partner and I never even hold hands in public because we respect other people.
    What I basically want to say is that I also being a gay man strongly disagree with showing affection in public. I feel uncomfortable if a hedrosexual couple do it and I feel the same about gay couples. This type of behaviour happens between “straight” couples as well as we just seen here between “gay” couples. For this reason I would not have this “gay” conectation connected to it. It just happend to be a gay couple.
    My partner and I both love the Lord very much and we live very close to God. Not all gay people are like that and not all “straight” people are like that.
    If anyone did such things they should have been asked to leave because thay are not thinking about other arround them. I my oppinion showing affection to that extend should not be done in public but at home, no matter if you gay or straight.