It's a story that sounds like it belongs in an Atwood novel: Two women kiss each other while shopping, are arrested for it and then end up homeless while they waited out the conditions of their release. Unfortunately truth is often stranger than fiction, and despite the fact that this is, in fact, 2015 and not 1915, that's exactly what happened, according to the lesbian couple that lived it.
Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero, who live in Los Angeles, were vacationing on Oahu and needed to get a few groceries. Like a lot of couples on vacation, they wandered the aisles hand in hand, and Guerrero kissed her girlfriend on the cheek. They say that was when things started to go south. A uniformed, off-duty police officer, Bobby Harrison, approached them and told them they "can't do that in here." Harrison followed them and threatened to arrest them for trespassing, and then things escalated in a completely unbelievable way.
Video: KHNL/NBC News
According to the couple, Guerrero moved in between Harrison and Wilson when Harrison grabbed Wilson's arm. The officer then punched Guerrero in the face, took the women to the ground and held them there while grocery employees went to fetch zip ties. The two women were arrested for assaulting a police officer but were released two days later on bail. Unfortunately a condition of their release forced them to stay in Hawaii for months, causing Guerrero to lose her job back home and forcing the women to sleep on park benches because they hadn't planned on sticking around and didn't have the funds for an extended stay.
Later, the charges were withdrawn and the women released, but the damage had been done, and now Guerrero and Wilson have filed suit against Harrison.
This should not have happened. This would not have happened if it was a straight couple. Lots of straight couples walk through grocery stores or laundromats or down the street, stealing cheek pecks and snuggles, and if they are called out on it, it's usually nothing more than a jokey "hey you two, get a room!" That's not what happened here.
These two women claimed they were physically harmed and forced to sleep in a public park, all because someone couldn't stand the idea of gay affection. And that's inexcusable. It isn't illegal for two women or two men to kiss or hug or walk hand in hand. It certainly doesn't qualify as "trespassing," which sounds like little more than a flimsy excuse for this man to make all the icky same-sex kissing stop.
It might be another thing entirely if things were getting hot and heavy, but that's illegal when anyone does it, not just same-sex couples. Even then, it's unlikely that such an encounter would end with the police punching one of the participants in the face.
Yes, it's unbelievable that even now, in a post-DOMA world, after the landmark Supreme Court ruling that protected same-sex marriages across the land, when we know how electricity and magnets and human sexuality work, people's delicate sensibilities are assaulted when they see a couple with matching parts kiss. But it happens, and for the most part, people offer up a begrudging "you do you, we'll do us" agreement that allows us all to function and live together.
But to be arrested? Punched in the face? Forced into homelessness? That's beyond the pale and should never be tolerated outside of a terrifying dystopic thriller.
And it only goes to show that while same-sex marriage may now be legal, the fight for gay and lesbian rights (and those of transgender people too) is far from over.
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