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Couples kiss at Tim Hortons in support of queer rights

About 30 protesters attend 'kiss-in' in Blenheim, Ontario

Riley Murphy and Patricia Pattenden kiss in front of the Tim Hortons in Blenheim, Ontario, on Oct 27. Credit: Andrea Houston

A kiss is just a kiss, unless it’s two women at a Tim Hortons in the small southwestern Ontario town of Blenheim.

The community has been at the centre of a storm of controversy after Murphy and Pattenden were told to leave the coffee shop in late September. The manager told them Tim Hortons is “family-friendly” and threatened to call police.

Riley Murphy, 25, and her girlfriend, Patricia Pattenden, 23, kissed defiantly in front of the coffee shop Oct 27, something they say everyone has the right to do anywhere. Local activists organized the “kiss-in” protest through the Occupy Tim Hortons Facebook group.

About 30 protesters attended to support Pattenden and Murphy, including many youth with rainbows painted on their faces. Not too far away was a small counter-protest. A man who identified himself only as Randy held up a sign that read: “It’s not gay. It’s not straight. It’s ‘get a room.’”

“It doesn’t matter the orientation; a couple making out in public, it’s not the social norm. There’s a place for that and it’s not Tim Hortons, gay or straight, “ he told Xtra.

Randy says there’s no law against kissing, but people should “be decent in public. These people are making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Pattenden says the media spotlight has driven a wedge through her family, nine of whom were with her that day at Tim Hortons. “They want to stay away from the media and just want it all to go away.

“I believe everyone has the right to show affection in public. We did not go above and beyond what anyone else does,” Pattenden says. “I just want to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Judy Kelly and her partner, Cathy Spoiala, drove to Blenheim from Windsor to lend support.

“This is total discrimination. If it had been a straight couple who had given each other a kiss on the cheek, this never would have been an issue,” Kelly says.

Many of the young supporters expressed hope that all the attention will make the town a little more welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people.

“No one would be asked to leave [Tim Hortons] if they were straight,” says Cassey Doolittle, 15.

The initial complaint came from Eric Revie, assistant pastor at Glad Tidings Community Church, a Pentecostal congregation. He says the couple was “basically having sex at Tom Hortons.”

Revie, who was not at the protest, told Xtra Oct 25 that Murphy and Pattenden were “being disgusting . . . straddling one another, tongues locked, with hands down each others’ clothes in the crotch area and chest area, grabbing genitals.”

Pattenden says that would never have happened in front of her family. They would have felt very uncomfortable, she says. “They would have walked away. They wouldn’t have continued to sit beside me.”

Spoiala says the pastor’s version of the story falls apart because Pattenden was with her family.

“If this was a straight couple, the pastor would never have blown this out of proportion the way he did, saying they had their hands down each other’s pants,” she says. “I mean, who would do that in front of their family? Who would do that in public? There’s the assumption there’s a lack of morality because they are gay. That’s insulting.”

Joost Gratmas, owner of the Tim Hortons, has declined to comment.