Let me get this straight - pun intended.
Westfield Galleria in Roseville announced in a press release that it asks people engaged in sexually explicit conduct to leave instead of detaining them for law enforcement. So we are clear in what that means, the management of the largest mall in Northern California views any form of sex or the “lascivious display of the genitals or pubic area” - as federal government code defines sexually explicit - as simply a violation of its code of conduct for shoppers.
The press release came on the heels of the storm of criticism the mall is receiving after a security guard asked two gay men who were kissing each other on the cheek repeatedly and holding hands to cease their behavior or leave. The couple recorded what they were being told by a mall security officer.
The mall management initially issued a statement saying they ask any couple seen showing public displays of affection - kissing or holding hands - to stop or leave the Galleria. This naturally prompted Sacramento TV Channel 40 to conduct its own investigation. They reported seeing dozens of straight couples kissing and holding hands inside the mall in clear sight with no one asking them to leave.
So instead of apologizing for singling out the gay couple, the mall management then clarified why they were stopped by saying they were engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The mall folks also are embracing a kiss-in this Saturday at the mall’s Starbucks but still aren’t apologizing.
Here’s some advice for the mall management: Apologize and move on.
What likely happened is the security guard - or someone who may have complained to him - doesn’t personally like gay couples kissing or holding hands. Fair enough. But public displays of affection rules don’t - nor can they legally be written to - exclude straights.
A number of years ago a teacher at Sierra High complained in a call to the Bulletin about a boy-boy couple being allowed to hold hands on campus. When asked if there were opposite sex couples holding hands, the response was along the lines of “that’s different.”
Not true. School district policy at the time – and still does – prohibits public displays of affection. If it’s a rule, no one should be allowed to kiss on campus.
The same is true for Westfield Galleria. Should a mall security officer see an opposite sex couple in their mid 70s kissing or holding hands would they be asked to cease or to leave immediately?
People who conduct themselves in such a manner that they should get a motel room should be booted from public places. But holding hands and kissing on the cheek is puritanical by today’s standards.
What makes this all the more interesting is the reaction of the leadership of gay and lesbian organizations in Sacramento. They are acting reasonable.
Twenty-five years ago when Sacramento Police cited gay couples for having sex while parked in cars across from homes along the American River, they acted as if police had dragged the couples out of their cars and beat them. The citations triggered massive marches on Sacramento’s Library Plaza and vicious verbal attacks on then Mayor Ann Rudin.
It was pointed out to the gay and lesbian community’s leadership that Sacramento Police several months earlier had cited same sex couples for having sex in their cars across the street from the same homes. In other words the law prohibits all sex in public and not just gay sex. That did not change their tune. They still yelled discrimination.
No one was yelling discrimination or planning marches this time around. Instead they have simply emphasized the mall wasn’t treating everyone the same.
The mall management could have simply apologized and said a mistake was made.
But now they have gone beyond kissing on the cheek and hand holding to saying the couple engaged sexually explicit behavior. The mall press release said the couple was asked to stop the sexually explicit behavior and wasn’t asked to leave because they complied.
So if it was really sexually explicit behavior as the government describes and not just hand holding and kissing, why is the mall management OK with not reporting the incident to police?
Could it be that it was simply hand holding and kissing which puts Westfield at odds with the very businesses they rely on leasing their space such as Macy’s and a host of more enlightened and law-abiding retailers.
Perhaps instead of a kiss-in and doing tap dancing with words, maybe the appropriate response is kissing good-bye to shopping at Westfield Galleria.
To most of us this may not appear as a straight forward act of discrimination.
But whether we like it or not, the rules apply to all people and not just those who share our specific personal sets of values.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.