When I was seventeen years old and in a period of particular in-yer-face Queer patriotism, I spent twenty minutes snogging my then boyfriend in the middle of a straight pub in deepest, darkest West Wales. We were politely asked to leave by the landlord, who told us that we were putting the customers off their pints. I called him a homophobe, stormed the moral high-ground and declared that I would never attend his establishment again, but while there may well have been an element of homophobia to what he was saying, I had certainly been deliberately trying to provoke a reaction in the people around me. I’m sure if I’d been necking a girl in such a lewd and vigorous manner it would still have drawn comment and derision, but would I have been asked to leave? Probably not... though that doesn’t excuse that we shouldn’t really have been behaving like that full stop.
It’s attitudes like those of the customer in Sainsbury’s last weekend that have led to this non-progression of Gay Rights. Gay people have as much a right to touch each other in public as absolutely everyone else, but it’s only through touching each other in public that they become instantly recognisable. For a group of people who have lived at least a portion of their lives hidden in plain sight because they don’t look any different, this instant recognition is off-putting. But why would people be bold enough to declare their love in public and marry their partner, but yet still not hold their hand in a public place? If these were straight people, you’d be severely questioning their commitment to each other as a result, wouldn't you?
In Brighton, the couple are speaking with lawyers to take action against Sainsbury's. Though some might see this as an overreaction to simply being asked to leave a store, this small moment of discrimination is so much more than that, because it suggests compliance between the customer and staff member. Sainsbury's have jumped to condemn the actions of its employee and offered to make a sizeable donation to a charity of the couple's choosing, but how many times do moments like this still happen that go unreported? Would landlords still tell young gays that they were putting their customers off their pints? Or would they just be told to get a room? I'm almost tempted to go back and find out.