I have lost count of how many times I have felt the need to swap seats on the tube, in a bar, or even in a library because of a kissing couple. I know it does not bother some people, but I get wound up into a fury at the blatant and unnecessary display of bad manners of people who find either find it impossible to control themselves in public, or are such exhibitionists that they take extra pleasure from canoodling in public.
When I heard the news, therefore, of the kerfuffle over the kissing gay couple in Soho I felt momentarily torn. Jonathan Williams and James Bull, young gay men out on their first date, had enjoyed a nice dinner before moving on to the John Snow, a pub on the edge of gay-friendly Soho. The pub is a friendly venue which welcomes a mix of folk, and on the occasions I have been there, gay and straight customers appeared to blend easily together.
During the evening the men began kissing, and were soon asked "politely" by a customer to stop because it was "bothering him".
The couple refused to leave, and continued kissing. Eventually, the landlady told them to leave as they were being "obscene". The original complainant then joined in and took hold of Williams's coat lapels, amid protestations of the couple's innocence.
Inundated via Twitter, Facebook, newspapers and numerous web sites and blogs with stories about the so-called homophobic attack on the men I was expected, as a lesbian, to sympathise. A number of protest groups have sprung up since the incident, and couples, gay and straight have been planning to teach the staff at the John Snow a lesson, with hundreds pledging to attend "kiss-ins" both there and at other Samuel Smith-owned venues.
Williams and Bull say that their treatment by the bar staff was inappropriate and heavy handed, and I agree that it seems over the top to attempt to physically eject the men from the pub for such a minor misdemeanour. But was it homophobia? As a lesbian, and a life-long campaigner against anti-gay bigotry I can honestly say I do not know.
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