City plays straight on kiss at gay bar

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The Independent Online
San Francisco's Human Rights Commission, the city's guardian against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, has just turned San Francisco's loaded sexual politics on its head. It has reprimanded a popular gay and lesbian bar for intolerant behaviour.

The offence: The Cafe, known as the city's busiest homosexual bar, had banned straight kissing. This "no straight make-out" policy violated anti-discrimination statutes, the commission ruled.

It all began last summer, when a straight couple - along with two gay friends - were bounced from The Cafe when they began kissing at the bar.

When one of their gay friends complained, the manager of the bar, Morgan Gorrono, wrote to the Bay Area Reporter, defending his decision to throw them out. Straight people will "be asked not to, once," he wrote. "If they don't like it, they can leave." The Cafe is located in the Castro district, San Francisco's celebrated gay enclave. But while it does a thriving business with two bars and a dance floor, it is one of a dwindling number of such bars.

There are now only about 35, from closer to 100 a few years ago. The Aids epidemic hit the homosexual social scene hard, and straight people have taken over many places, Mr Gorrono complained.

The Castro district remains a sanctuary, where homosexuals can "still hold hands and not worry about getting fag-bashed", he said.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Gorrono explained the bar's policy. "A peck on the cheek is fine," he said.

"But you can't have heavy make-outs. It's our number-one complaint from customers. They find it really offensive, like their space is being invaded." The couple were not just kissing but drunk and blocking the bar, he insisted.

Mr Gorrono has refused the commission's request that he place a public apology to the four friends in the local press and on the door of his bar. Somewhat grudgingly, he has changed the policy. Although gay, he was once married himself and understands the need to be more sensitive, he said.

In addition to its one existing dress code, that male and female customers keep their shirts on, The Cafe will now officially ban all heavy kissing - for persons of gay, straight, or any other sexual orientation.