A “Big Kiss-In” has been held in the Brighton branch of Sainsbury’s after a lesbian couple were threatened with expulsion by a security guard for briefly kissing.
Dozens of people – men and women, including one couple in wedding dress – descended on the store on Wednesday as bemused shoppers looked on.
Video footage of the event shown by ITV News showed a number of couples, some in fancy dress, kissing as people held signs with supermarket-style slogans like “Live well for lez”.
Sussex University’s students union said in a tweet: “Thanks to everyone who took part in the #bigkissin. Great to see people in Brighton and beyond showing we like kissing and hate homophobia.”
The incident that sparked the protest happened last week when a customer complained about Annabelle Paige, a Sussex University student, and her partner kissing.
Ms Paige told The Times that she had only given her girlfriend a light kiss, but was told by a security guard to stop or leave the store. “I’m so shocked and upset about it. I get that if another customer is uncomfortable that’s a bad thing... but the problem is the other customer was in the wrong and essentially being homophobic. The guard didn’t seem to understand that, I was absolutely humiliated,” she said shortly after the incident.
The most important coming outs of the last year
The most important coming outs of the last year
1/9 1. Ellen Page
The 26-year-old actor came out in an inspirational speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s youth conference, Time to Thrive, on 14 February this year. She spoke about her fear of coming out publicly and the effect that had on her. She said, to the crowd cheering her: 'My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of the other side of all that pain.' Page said she hoped she could make a difference to others.
2/9 2. Vicky Beeching
Vicky Beeching, a British Christian rock singer popular in America’s Bible Belt, came out in an interview with The Independent, risking her career. In her interview Beeching talked about her anguish as a teenager as her feelings went against church teachings. Beeching now says she wants to be an advocate for gay rights within the church and came to blows with homophobic US Pastor, Scott Lively. She said to him on Channel 4 News: “I’m taking this step today so young people don’t have to listen to the kind of teaching you peddle, because it damages people.”
Jason Alden/The Independent
3/9 3. Tom Daley
The 20-year-old Olympic diving champion came out in an emotional YouTube video in December 2013, saying he was 'dating a guy' and in April this year said on ITV’s Celebrity Juice 'I am a gay man now.' This week Daley encouraged gay footballers to come out: 'I think people would be surprised how supported they'd be if they were to come out in a football environment,' he said at the Leaders in Sport conference in London.
4/9 4. Thomas Hitzlsperger
Speaking of footballers, the German, former Aston Villa player, Thomas Hitzsperger, became the highest profile footballer to be openly gay in January this year – he told the German newspaper, Die Zeit: 'It's been a long and difficult process… only in the last few years have I realised that I preferred living with a man.' The 31-year-old retired from the game in 2013 because of injuries. He said that he had thought about coming out earlier while he was still playing for Wolfsburg, but was warned against it. Afterwards he said 'there was not precedent, so people could only speculate on what would happen.'
5/9 5. Andreja Pejic
Andreja Pejic is known as the striking Australian model who has done shoots for Elle and Vogue, as a man modelling womenswear. In July 2014 she revealed she had undergone gender reassignment surgery and came out as a transgender woman. 'I hope that by being open about this, it becomes less of an issue,' she told People magazine.
6/9 6. Sam Smith
The singer and rising star of 2014 came out officially in May this year when he said his album was about unrequited love for a man. Speaking to the Fader he said: 'In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before.'
7/9 7. Charlie King
The 29-year-old former The Only Way is Essex star Charlie King said he was gay in an interview with This Morning, only this month. In the interview he said he wanted to be honest about his sexuality to help other people in the same situation feel more comfortable about it.
8/9 9. Hodor!
The actor, Kristian Nairn, famed for his portrayal of the gentle giant Hodor on Game of Thrones came out in March this year. He told the Wall Street Journal he didn’t fit the stereotype of what a gay man is supposed to look like: 'You have to be thin, you have to be tanned… that’s never been be me.' He said he 'wanted to show the world that we are varied people, as everyone else, you don’t have to be any way.'
9/9 10. Ian Thorpe
Australia’s swimming champion Ian Thorpe denied being gay for years and did not feel comfortable coming out until July this year in an interview with Michael Parkinson. Thorpe is a five-time Olympic gold medallist and has recently retired from the sport, in his 2012 autobiography he said he was straight, and in July he said that being gay was something he was only just telling people: 'This is only something that very recently, we're talking the past two weeks, I've been comfortable telling the closest people around me.'
One of those at the protest, Fiona Spechter, told The Guardian that the situation “made me realise how I can take it for granted that I can hold my girlfriend’s hand in public”.
“I’ve lived in Brighton for a long time and it’s normal here, so when something like this happens, it’s really shocking,” she said.
And Sara Fogg, 33, who was there with her wife Caroline, 37, told Brighton’s Argus newspaper: “Everyone has a right to show affection regardless of their sexuality or gender. I think it is good to show support in this way and take a stand.”
Brighton MP Caroline Lucas told the paper that a “Kiss-In” was a “typically creative, Brighton way to highlight the issue”.
But she added that the original incident showed “there is still some way to go before homophobia is stamped out in the city”.
Gay community in Argentina take part in 'kiss-off' protest earlier this year
Sainsbury’s has apologised and stressed that Ms Paige and her partner were “not behaving inappropriately”.
“We understand the point that people were making today and we were happy to welcome the Big Kiss-In to our store,” a spokeswoman for Sainsbury's said. “We’re pleased everyone had fun and we were happy for the chance to remind everyone just how important being an inclusive business and employer is to us.”