A gay UC Berkeley couple sparked controversy earlier this month for kissing in public at a Roseville, Calif., mall.
UC Berkeley junior Daniel Chesmore and his boyfriend, UC Berkeley alumnus Jose Guzman, were spending time together in Roseville’s Westfield Galleria on March 2 when they were approached by a mall officer for allegedly inappropriate public displays of affection.
“If you continue to kiss, you will be asked to leave the mall,” said a mall officer to the couple, according to KTXL Fox40 News. “I counted you guys kissing 25 times. I told you before, we contact any couple … about this.”
The officer requested that the two refrain from their behavior, as it was against the mall’s code of conduct, or else they would be asked to leave, according to an official statement released by the Westfield Galleria at Roseville. The couple then left of their own accord.
“In a perfect world, there would be no difference in treatment between straight couples and gay couples,” Chesmore said in an interview with Fox40 News. “It makes me feel like no matter what I do in society, I will always be different.”
An official statement released by the Westfield Galleria at Roseville stated that there was “no basis for the claim that this incident was prompted by the sexual orientation of the individuals.”
Still, the incident elicited significant negative reaction from the Roseville community, particularly the LGBTQ community.
In response, Beverly Kearney, along with other individuals from the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center, organized Love is Love, a “kiss-in” peaceful protest that was held at the Westfield Galleria at Roseville on March 9. Hundreds of people gathered to show their support for the LGBTQ community.
“It’s 2013,” Kearney said in a Facebook message. “The LGBTQ community shouldn’t have to hide who we are anymore. No one should have to. (Chesmore and Guzman) were not being inappropriate or tasteless.”
While the Westfield Galleria at Roseville formally apologized for the incident on its Facebook page, Vice President of Development for Westfield Keith Kaplan, who himself is gay, reiterated the apology during his speech at the protest and affirmed Westfield’s commitment to the LGBT community.
“I am here today to unequivocally state that everyone is welcome here at Westfield,” Kaplan said. “We sincerely apologize for any actions taken by any of us that made anyone feel otherwise.”
Westfield Galleria has made efforts to evaluate sensitivity training practices with respect to the LGBTQ community. Westfield Galleria has also vowed to continue to do so and to increase its partnerships and efforts with various local LGBTQ organizations.
“We’re all very excited about the partnership opportunities that lie ahead as we move forward,” Kaplan said.
Contact Jennie Yoon at [email protected].