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Do “Kiss-Ins” Hinder Social Acceptance of Gay People?

In the 1990s, when I was President of the Log Cabin Republican Club of Northern Virginia, I used to appear regularly at Republican events across the region (and in the District of Columbia).  While I would identify our group as an organization of gay Republicans and would occasionally bring a date, getting one date’s permission in 1998 to introduce him to the then-Lieutenant Governor of Virginia (current father-in-law to W’s daughter) as my boyfriend.

Beyond that, I did little to advertise my sexuality.  I found it best to let them know I was gay and show that I was otherwise just a regular Republican.  I didn’t think it helped promote social acceptance of gay peopl by being “in your face” about it.

This is why I don’t have much truck with those who stage certain stunts into order to make a statement.  On Saturday, in response to two gay men being arrested last month for kissing on property owned by the Church of the Latter Days Saints in downtown Salt Lake City (as well as similar incidents in Texas), gay groups across the nation organized kiss-ins in cities across the nation:

Twenty-two people, many of them strangers to one another, gathered under the scorching sun on Washington’s National Mall to participate in the national smooch. They were gay and straight, couples and singles of all ages, with placards that read “Equal Opportunity Kisser” and “A Kiss is a Not a Crime.”

Do you interpret this as I do? That some of the couples doing the public smooching included individuals who didn’t know one another?  Hardly a public display of spontaneous affection that.

While the AP article dwells (and dwells and dwells) on how the arrests hurts the Mormon church’s image (despite the absence of evidence that the Texas arrests were linked to Mormons), I wonder how such stunts stymie the social advancement of gay people.  People will wonder why we need so advertise our sexuality.  (The media does seem obsessed with maligning Mormons.)

It’s one thing to walk hand in hand with the person you love.  Or to in a moment of passion, kiss him, even if in a public place.  But, a staged kiss-in does more harm than good.

If such folks really think such kiss-ins will improve our image, I suggest they try them in front of a mosque or church in the African-American community.

(Oh, and, in the article linked above, the AP reporter leads off with an error by saying Prop 8 “banned gay marriage in California.”  It did no such thing; it merely prevented the state from recognizing it.)



  1. I’m curious. Did the straight guys kiss gay guys?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — August 17, 2009 @ 9:39 pm - August 17, 2009

  2. “Do ‘Kiss-Ins’ Hinder Social Acceptance of Gay People?”

    No. Questions like TGC’s (#1) hinder social acceptance of gay people. ; )

    Comment by Sean A — August 17, 2009 @ 11:51 pm - August 17, 2009

  3. The AP article is stunning in its monolithic view; pro-gay and anti-Mormon in tone. A few facts that the article did not mention which should have been mentioned.

    The public plaza in question in Salt Lake is adjacent to the Salt Lake Mormon Temple. The Mormon Church approached the Salt Lake City Council with a plan to redevelop downtown Salt Lake City with the aid of hundreds of millions of dollars of PRIVATE donations as opposed to public funds to revamp the entire downtown. As part of this redevelopment the Church wanted to purchase, at premium price, the block next to the Mormon temple to make it a park with a reflection pond and professional landscape. Because of the location the Church wanted it to be private property.

    The city council, led by ultra liberal Rocky Anderson, agreed to sell the city lot but not the public easement of “private property.” As a compromise, the city council agreed that no protests would be allowed on the public property purchased and developed by the Mormon Church. As soon as the property was purchased and developed, however, the public protests against the Mormon Church began from every quarter of every group who had an axe to grind against the Mormons. Meanwhile, members who wanted to attend their temple, their most sacred site, had to walk through groups of protestors with vulgar signs and actions. I cannot imagine any other religion, or social group, including gays, even tolertating this.

    The Church protested, and in the end had to purchase the public easement to reserve the right of “private property.” In essence, the Mormons had to purchase the same lot twice, at premium price, so that its members could attend their temple without walking through a gang of people mocking them.

    So, when two gay people were arrested for overt signs of public affection on a piece of property that was purchased twice so that Mormons could walk to their temple while minding their own business, a large upoar in the press began which complained against the Mormons on this action.

    Really, can anyone imagine Muslims, Jews, Catholics, or Protestants, first off, spending hundreds of millions to revamp their city with private funds, only to have to pay twice for the most expensive block in the city? And this just so that its members can worship in peace? And once done to have to defend their right to private property? Would gay organizations appreciate showing up to their own headquarters for a meeting only to find its seats filled with conservative Mormons mocking them? Followed up by the media pointing out how hateful the gays were? This is hypocritical rubbish at a colossal scale.

    Comment by John the Egyptian — August 18, 2009 @ 1:07 am - August 18, 2009

  4. Do “Kiss-Ins” Hinder Social Acceptance of Gay People?

    Yes, you are right Dan, of course they do. Like so much else the gay left does, the entire purpose is to offend, which is, in itself, an act of hostility.

    But then again, we are talking about the same geniuses who think the way to persuade the majority to change their minds on gay marriage is to call them bigots and haters.

    Comment by American Elephant — August 18, 2009 @ 5:36 am - August 18, 2009

  5. Dan, like you, I question the effectiveness of kiss-ins myself. But, if I understand correctly, this one started in response to a couple who apparently kissed spontaneously on what happend to be property owned by the Church of LDS, who were caught and punished for doing so. It doesn’t appear that this particular same sex PDA inhibited Mormons from attending services, while the protests apparently did.

    Usually, these kiss-ins are in response to some unjust action such as what happened in Salt Lake City. Yes, I’m sure the point of some of those who participate in kiss-ins is to offend people who are offended by two people of the same sex kissing. But it seems to me that for most, they were trying to make another point. That straight couples don’t have to endure what that couple in Salt Lake City had to endure, regardless of the status of what kind of property that space was.

    If such folks really think such kiss-ins will improve our image, I suggest they try them in front of a mosque or church in the African-American community.

    Dan, while these religious communities would oppose same sex kissing, I am unaware of a situation where a same sex couple was arrested in the front of their property for spontaneously kissing.

    As for me personally, I don’t participate in these kiss-ins. The closest I came to do this was when I was in Los Angeles about 7 years ago. I went to a Clippers game, and they did a kiss cam thing during a break. The camera would zoom in on a (straight) couple, and the spectators would watch them kiss when they saw themselves on the screen. And then the last “couple” was apparently a couple of straight guys, which evoked laughter from the spectators. I went to a Lakers game (the Knicks actually beat them, if you could believe that), and I said to my friend that if the kiss cam zooms in on us, that I would kiss him. Unlike the Clippers game, they didn’t zoom in on two guys. Yeah, we weren’t dating, and it wouldn’t have been spontaneous, but yet, IMO it would have been an appropriate response to the implied homophobia from the Clippers game.

    Comment by Pat — August 18, 2009 @ 7:36 am - August 18, 2009

  6. OK, I will, perhaps needlessly, take this theme to its logical homophobic destination.

    1) Kissing in public is not the business of the law under most standards of decency. If the kissing couple is adamant about blocking traffic when asked to move aside, then I can relate to a public nuisance charge.

    2) If a gay couple engage in a spontaneous smooch, they may raise the attention of passers-by, but only because gays kissing in public is not a common sight.

    3) If gays kiss in public as an act of defiance toward those who want gays to keep their “business” behind closed doors, then it is time that gays and straights alike reexamine the public order.

    4) In many parts of the world it is “normal” for men to walk hand in hand. It has no meaning regarding sexuality. The same is true of kissing. If two women in New York City give a “peck” it is cosmopolitan, not sexual.

    5) If two gays stand in front of the elementary school playground at recess and engage in protracted soul kissing, I would imagine the city would take notice and have to deal with the delicate issues involved.

    6) So, what is the game afoot?

    Comment by heliotrope — August 18, 2009 @ 10:33 am - August 18, 2009

  7. All I got to say to the public make-out crowd is You got a lot of growing up to do, buddy.

    Comment by V the K — August 18, 2009 @ 10:47 am - August 18, 2009

  8. […] to: John the Egyptian for bringing this to my attention. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Beware the Zion […]

    Pingback by Militant Gays and the ACLU versus Fundamental Rights « Teh Resistance Blog — August 18, 2009 @ 11:01 am - August 18, 2009

  9. If UC-Berkeley can have protesters arrested for trespassing on private property, why can’t the LDS church?

    Comment by V the K — August 18, 2009 @ 11:13 am - August 18, 2009

  10. Ah the old debate. Work inside the system or engage in protest? The groups representing each strategy seem to very much dislike one another, regardless of what issue they advocate. One would think that each form of advocacy has it’s drawbacks and benefits, and everyone would be accepting of the other’s choice in how to voice their opinion.

    I was the organizer of the Washington DC event that is mention in this blog. It was a small event, but everyone who was there, without exception, was enriched and uplifted by the sense of joy and celebration. It is very important to say that this event was staged to be a celebration of love rather than a direct protest. This is mentioned repeatedly by the organizers on their websites.

    The young lady reporting for the AP was a very nice person. I think, from my knowledge of her, that she was referring to the fact that this was not a group of friends meeting on the mall. While the vast majority of people there came as a couple, none of the couples were affiliated in any way prior to the event. This was truly spontaneous. Some did in fact come singly. These included a gentleman who just moved to the area and wanted to show the world his support of our celebration, others came because they believed in what we were trying to do. The biggest thing to mention is that each display was tasteful.

    I am a bisexual man married to a woman. I love my wife and I love my community. In my profession I have had the opportunity to mediate a disagreement between multiple branches of the same advocacy who disagree with each other’s methods. While there are always emotional and idealogical disagreements, I have been thrilled to see these groups realize that multiple strategies can be used, but a unified voice is necessary. One way or another. we like boys, or we like girls, or we like both. We just don’t want to be persecuted for it.


    Ian Thomas

    Comment by Ian Thomas — August 18, 2009 @ 11:26 am - August 18, 2009

  11. Kissing does not hurt any cause.

    Disrespecting religion does, and needlessly prodding the innocence of children ( of course both can be done by any orientation ).

    Comment by Geena — August 18, 2009 @ 11:30 am - August 18, 2009

  12. For crying out loud some of the above people, get a sense of perspective (and humor). I went to the kiss-in in Philly and it consisted of some couples kissing, friends hugging, and a bunch of singles hanging around and being supportive wallflowers. (Didn’t see rampant stranger kissing here, but if there was, I’d be okay with that). Kind of what you’d see in the park in Philly, but more of the couples were same sex (hetero couples participated too). Some tourists wandered by- A nice couple with their two kids asked us to take their pic while they kissed in front of the Love sculpture in Philly where the action was taking place. We gladly complied. And they went on their way smiling at us nice Philadelphians.

    Don’t see how such an action would take LGBT equality in any way- in fact, I think it was good PR for my fine city.

    Comment by Planet Caroline — August 18, 2009 @ 12:17 pm - August 18, 2009

  13. Funny that the same people who are doing the kiss in wouldn’t support me handing out pro-life literature on planned parenthood grounds.

    Comment by The Livewire — August 18, 2009 @ 12:38 pm - August 18, 2009

  14. As the creator and co-founder of The Great Nationwide Kiss-In, it’s terribly disappointing to read a piece that mischaracterizes an amazing grassroots movement in which 4500 people in almost 60 cities across more than 30 states, plus Canada, joined together to battle homophobia, and to celebrate and affirm EVERYONE’S right to share a simple act of affection with one’s loved one.

    The Great Nationwide Kiss-In was a huge success, much larger and more impactful than I ever could have conceived, when I created it just five weeks ago.

    It’s very important to note that The Great Nationwide Kiss-In was NOT an LGBTQ-only event. A LARGE percentage of the organizers and participants were heterosexual. And that was the idea behind it: to have people see straight and gay couples standing together, sharing a kiss – not with some random stranger as your piece works hard to have your readers believe – but with their loved one. The vast, vast majority of participants were couples.

    (In fact, that was a major hurdle in getting larger numbers of people to attend: there were so many who didn’t come, lamenting, “I want to come but I don’t have anyone to kiss!” Trust me, almost everyone who attended and kissed came and left with the same person.)

    And that’s what started this issue: gay couples being harassed, detained, and even arrested after sharing a simple kiss in public. And – regardless of the couple’s gender or orientation – that is unacceptable.

    We found a simple way to remind people that a kiss is a beautiful and simple expression of affection that no one should ever try to silence. Thousands of people agreed. And the response in the media has been equally supportive.

    The Great Nationwide Kiss-In was about showing people that gay or straight, there’s nothing shameful or wrong with expressing an act of simple affection to your loved one, in public. And, more importantly, there’s nothing ILLEGAL about it, either. Surely, that’s something all conservatives should understand?

    We purposely did not allow any events to be held near any houses of worship, despite the strong desire of many people to protest against the Mormon Church. The Great Nationwide Kiss-In is not a protest, it is a celebration. And a respectful one, at that. We weren’t trying to be, as you put it, “in your face,” we were simply showing people that there’s no difference between a straight couple kissing in public, and a gay couple kissing in public. And that a kiss, is just a kiss.

    Comment by David Badash — August 18, 2009 @ 12:51 pm - August 18, 2009

  15. The view of San Francisco from the Oakland Temple is awesome. So it attracts some love-birds. East Bay Express dubbed it their “Best View” one year. IIRC, they also suggested an alternate site for people who are bothered by the overly-religious atmosphere.

    Pat-you’re probably right that the “No PDA” rule isn’t uniformly enforced. A small peck on the cheek wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. Nor would a couple posing for photos on their wedding day. But apparently the rule sometimes applies to heterosexuals, because it was applied to me.

    Considering John’s context, the couple might have mistakenly assumed that they were on public property. It’s understandable that they would escalate the matter. I might have done so, even to the point of being arrested.

    Knowing it was private property? Eh…

    Comment by Steve-O — August 18, 2009 @ 12:53 pm - August 18, 2009

  16. Links, 08/18…

    From Eph Planet:

    Chad Orzel asks: What’s your favorite of Maxwell’s Equations?
    Amaranta Viera talks about pommes frites and anatomical drawings: “Poor Yorick looks good in pastels.”
    Daniel Drezner asks what different systemic i…

    Trackback by EphBlog — August 18, 2009 @ 12:56 pm - August 18, 2009

  17. addresses this issue… “can you imagine spending the rest of your life being careful about showing affection to your husband or wife?”

    View this Viral Video and Pass it on.

    Comment by Jeff — August 18, 2009 @ 1:25 pm - August 18, 2009

  18. If UC-Berkeley can have protesters arrested for trespassing on private property, why can’t the LDS church?

    V the K, I don’t know. If it’s the LDS Church property, they should have the choice whether or not to allow protesters on their property.

    Funny that the same people who are doing the kiss in wouldn’t support me handing out pro-life literature on planned parenthood grounds.

    Livewire, sometimes that’s what happens with advocacy. It’s only one side that’s always right, and never the other.

    But apparently the rule sometimes applies to heterosexuals, because it was applied to me.

    Steve-O, you mean you once on property that was either public, or assumed to be public, kissed your girlfriend (or wife), and was threatened with arrest for doing so?

    Comment by Pat — August 18, 2009 @ 2:41 pm - August 18, 2009

  19. In response to the original post’s question, I’d answer: no. Simply because so many people have already taken sides on gay-related issues, and will view these events with whatever color they already expect.

    Comment by DRH — August 18, 2009 @ 7:10 pm - August 18, 2009

  20. *Welcomes Pat back with a manly hug*

    Oh, I know. And I actually do agree that Planned Parenthood (your one stop shop for child rapists!) does have a right to restrict access to their lands, just like the Mormons. Was it a bad PR move? Yeah.

    David Badash, would you support my right to protest on Planned Parenthoods front lawn?

    Comment by The_Livewire — August 18, 2009 @ 7:26 pm - August 18, 2009

  21. #14: “The Great Nationwide Kiss-In is not a protest, it is a celebration. And a respectful one, at that. We weren’t trying to be, as you put it, “in your face,” we were simply showing people that there’s no difference between a straight couple kissing in public, and a gay couple kissing in public. And that a kiss, is just a kiss.”

    I don’t see anything positive about these types of “kiss-in” demonstrations because it simply confirms how pedestrian and outdated the gay left’s brand of activism is. There was certainly a time in this country when the persecution of gays was based almost exclusively on the revulsion straight people supposedly had for the idea of physical affection between two people of the same sex (particularly two men). The heterosexual male’s opinion of homosexuals was considered suspect unless the hatred included verbal confirmation that the guy was “disgusted” by homosexuals and that two men together “made him sick” (whether he truly felt like vomiting or not). But sorry folks, times have changed–and quickly, for the better.

    Any opposition that there may be to “gay rights” such as same-sex marriage or federal protection in the workplace is NOT predominated by people who simply believe homosexuality is “icky.” Californians didn’t vote to approve Prop. 8 because two men having sex “grosses them out.” The opposition to same-sex marriage is far more sophisticated than that and the idea that religious conservatives need to be “shown that there’s no difference between a straight couple kissing in public, and a gay couple kissing in public,” is pure condescension. It reinforces the myth that opposition to the gay left’s agenda is based on “fear of the unknown” and that greater exposure to homosexuality will somehow cure religious conservatives of their “bigotry” and “hatred.” It’s in the same vein as those BORING documentaries that kept being produced a couple of years ago depicting gay couples living together in committed, long-term relationships (the idea being, of course, that if conservatives could “just see” two people of the same sex living an ordinary life together as a loving couple, it might cure their seething, ingrained homophobia and opposition to gay marriage). But the religious conservatives that these filmmakers and activists condescendingly believe they are “educating” are way ahead of them. They KNOW that two men are capable of being in a committed relationship and they don’t need to be convinced that the love between them can be just as authentic as the love they feel for their spouses. They get it, thanks. But for all their efforts to “educate” the “bigots,” they learn absolutely nothing themselves along the way about what their ideological opponents truly believe.

    The gay left’s obsessive commitment to the “persecuted victims vs. red-neck, Bible-thumping h8ers” brand of activism grows more tired and anachronistic every day. Until the gay left grows up and starts responding to the actual arguments of the opposition instead of just condemning the lot of it as “h8,” there will be more wheel-spinning.

    Comment by Sean A — August 19, 2009 @ 12:57 am - August 19, 2009

  22. Hugs back to you Livewire. Actually, I haven’t really left. There are just some issues that I choose not to get involved with. One is abortion. Now the other is health care. Whereas with abortion I have no problem addressing tangential issues such as the question you posed to David Badash, I am staying away from the tangential issues that are coming from the health care debate. I will only say that while there are people with legitimate concerns on all sides, the debate is being taken over by the worst political filth (on all sides) that I have ever seen, that I don’t believe my participation will be useful at all.

    Comment by Pat — August 19, 2009 @ 7:32 am - August 19, 2009

  23. Sean,

    Your post makes me sad. I think it takes a couple of days of “walking in our shoes.” It’s really interesting to learn that heterosexual males aren’t responding with visceral disgust, because it sure feels like it. Every taunt of “faggot” “sodomite” “queer,” every well placed fist, every sideways look disproves your point. I’m glad that the conservative right has found some free thinking people who don’t want gays kissing in public because they have studies and graphs to show that pda will lead to their children becoming serial killers. Just do me a favor…pass this knowledge around to the rest of the church goers and when they come around and start speaking from some level of knowledge, we’ll start responding to you instead of them.

    I’ll tell you the truth. I, for one, could care less about your happy little form of conservatism right now. I know I can talk to you even though you don’t agree with me. I know we could come to an agreement. But please, don’t patronize me by saying everyone shares your viewpoints. They don’t. I have the bruises to prove it.



    Comment by Ian Thomas — August 19, 2009 @ 9:15 am - August 19, 2009

  24. #23: “Your post makes me sad. I think it takes a couple of days of “walking in our shoes.””

    Ian, I’m not certain whether your comment is trying to say that I lack understanding because I haven’t experienced the violence that you were subjected to, or because you think I’m not gay. So, to be clear, let me assure you that my shoes are just as fancy as yours. I have been out of the closet for almost 20 years, and while I can’t say I’ve had the misfortune of being physically attacked for it as you have, there have certainly been incidents in the past when I was called a “faggot” by some insignificant loser who has since gone on to appear on the Jerry Springer Show, landed in prison for running a meth lab out of his trailer, or is engaged in an occupation that requires him to wear a paper hat and ask people like me if I want to “supersize” my order. I would never suggest that such people don’t exist—truly ignorant, hateful bigots will never be extinct. My point is that in 2009, we live in a society that unequivocally condemns that kind of uncivilized white trash and they are rightfully marginalized and dispatched to fringes of society where they belong.

    As for my comment making you sad, that puzzles me because my perspective is that gays in this country have gone from being outcasts living on those same fringes, to mainstream acceptance and respect in a very short period of time. As with other minority groups that have experienced discrimination in the past, gays have benefited America’s unique ability to adapt and shake off bigotry that seemed ingrained and unchallenged only a decade or two before. It’s your perspective that I find depressing—that “well-placed fists” and hateful “sideways looks” lurk around every corner. Sorry, I find that view to be archaic and utterly inconsistent with reality.

    “I’m glad that the conservative right has found some free thinking people who don’t want gays kissing in public because they have studies and graphs to show that pda will lead to their children becoming serial killers. Just do me a favor…pass this knowledge around to the rest of the church goers and when they come around and start speaking from some level of knowledge, we’ll start responding to you instead of them.”

    Ian, this comment only proves my point that the gay left’s message has been largely ineffective politically because of refusal or inability to engage the opposition on the arguments it is actually making. I have to assume your reference to “church goers” is a broad reference to the Mormon Church and/or conservative Christians and their opposition to, i.e., same-sex marriage. If that is what you’re getting at, it’s no wonder you see the world as you do. If you equate the refusal of “church goers” to abandon their beliefs in favor of the wholesale acceptance of homosexuality with believing that exposure to homosexuality turns children into serial killers, then you’re never going to get anywhere (and don’t deserve to). Religious (and non-religious) conservatives have made their arguments opposing the gay left’s legislative agenda perfectly clear and it bears no resemblance to the slanderous hatred you’ve attributed to them. The irony is that you think you can win the argument by trying to convince Americans that the “church goers” are bigoted Neanderthals who believe things like exposure to homosexuality breeds serial killers, but that kind of hysterical rhetoric only proves that it’s the gays who are acting like bigoted Neanderthals. So, again, thanks for proving my point.

    Comment by Sean A — August 19, 2009 @ 12:49 pm - August 19, 2009

  25. The adversarial tone is confusing to me. This is the last I’m going to say on the subject so as not to get involved in a public pissing match.

    Your point of view is not one I take umbrage with. There is a large group of people, who are usually conservative christians of one stripe or another, who take a more forward and violent tact in protesting my sexual orientation. Note bene: I have not indicated that all conservative christians have this attitude, simply that most with this attitude whom I have met happen to be conservative christians. I have a problem with these people.

    I do not try to convince America of anything. I spent a day on Washington DC’s mall celebration my love for my wife with a group of people who celebrated their love for their significant others. My apologies for being parabolic. It seemed that a person of your intelligence would appreciate some overblown sarcasm. Misjudged again.

    I am surprised and saddened that anyone, especially a member of our community, would find this celebration “harmful.” I guess you just can’t please everyone. Luckily, this was not about you, the press, the government, the church, or the American people. Sometimes I just like exercising my rights.

    Good talking with you,


    Comment by Ian Thomas — August 19, 2009 @ 4:01 pm - August 19, 2009

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