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Westfield Galleria in Roseville to 'embrace' Saturday's 'kiss-in' protest

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2013 - 6:59 am

After a security guard reportedly ejected a gay couple for exchanging kisses in the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, the mall management announced that it will "embrace" a "kiss-in" scheduled Saturday in support of the couple.

Strong expressions of disaffection with mall management dominated the Galleria's Facebook page after Fox 40 TV news reported Monday that 21-year-old Daniel Chesmore and his boyfriend, Jose Guzman, 24, were asked to leave the Galleria on Saturday after they were observed kissing and holding hands.

The two men could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A statement issued by Westfield Galleria late Tuesday did little to appease members of the gay and lesbian community.

Mall management declined to speak directly with a reporter about the incident, but issued a written statement:

"All of our customers are welcome, and all are welcome equally – including those displaying affection. We do have rules and occasionally our security officers approach customers, inform them of the rules, and ask them to comply. We're sorry for any misperceptions with regard to the incident reported upon yesterday. At Westfield, we celebrate the diversity of our employees, shoppers and community, and will continue to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for all."

Westfield Galleria issued a revised statement Tuesday night, saying that simple displays of affection, such as kissing and hand-holding, are not an issue, but that in this case the couple violated rules that prohibit sexually explicit conduct, and the security officer asked them to stop the conduct.

The statement does not specify what that conduct was but says the couple complied with the security officer's request and were not asked to leave.

Similar conduct by heterosexual couples has resulted in the same request to abide by the rules, according to the statement.

Beverly Kearney of Sacramento, an advocate for the gay, lesbian and transgender community, said the initial statement did not appear to be an apology.

"It feels to me like it's placating," she said. "As someone said, 'You're not sorry for what happened. You're sorry you got caught.' "

Kearney is organizing the "kiss-in" to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Starbucks at the Galleria. "We're calling it a 'kiss-in' because that's why they were ejected from the mall," she said.

The Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center also issued a statement condemning the security guard's action, saying it was "unfortunately representative of the hate still harbored by many."

Shara Perkins Murphy, the center's executive director, said she had tried without success to talk with the mall manager before commenting publicly on the incident.

"I really hope the leadership of the Roseville Galleria will engage in real discussion and not blow this off with platitudes," Murphy said.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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