Cameron Village mall ‘regrets’ alleged discrimination toward lesbian couple

Activist and partner told to leave after public showing of 'gentle affection', Mall officials suspend officer involved

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: October 16, 2010 in News

Originally published: Oct. 14, 2010, 5:58 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 16, 2010, 12:30 p.m.

Cameron Village shopping center in Raleigh. Photo Credit: Moonlightbulb, via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A Triangle-area social justice group is planning to demonstrate at the Cameron Village shopping center this weekend after its co-director and partner were booted from the premises after showing signs of “gentle affection.”

SONG leader Caitlin Breedlove says she and her partner had just finished eating at The Flying Biscuit on Wednesday when they went to sit outside. There, they shared a brief kiss after which a security guard approached them and said they had to leave.

According to a release, the security guard said that “being affectionate” was “inappropriate.” The couple asked the guard if he would have said the same thing if they had been an opposite sex couple. The guard said, “No.” The couple asked to see the security guard’s supervisor, who also said they needed to leave, reminded them Cameron Village was private property and said, “You want this to be public, you want people to see what you are.”

In the release, Breedlove said that “bullying is just another word for violence.” She added, “Regardless of whether Cameron Village is private property or not, no one deserves to be bullied in public, and if we don’t stand up and say that all discrimination is wrong we contribute to a society where only some people get to feel safe in living their daily lives.”

Owners of The Flying Biscuit, who lease space from Cameron Village, say they will pursue the matter with property owners.

Ian Palmquist, executive director of statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina, has also spoken out.

“Discrimination is not acceptable — on public or private property,” Palmquist said in the release. “It’s time for North Carolina to pass a law protecting against discrimination in public accommodations like Cameron Village, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. All people deserve the right to be treated fairly and equally in their work, their homes, and their daily lives.”

Alba Onofrio, a member/leader with Breedlove’s SONG, says Cameron Village should be “held accountable” if they don’t correct the discrimination.

Breedlove told qnotes she doesn’t seek to have anyone fired. “We’re interested in opening up a wider conversation about what it means to live in a country where some people are free to be themselves and walk around freely and others are told they can’t be their whole selves,” she said. “That includes not only gay people, but also people of color and immigrants.”

qnotes contacted a spokesperson with Cameron Village property and security managers York Properties, but a request for comment wasn’t returned by press time on Thursday. On Friday, Cameron Village officials updated their Facebook fan page — which had become host to several comments chastising the mall for their actions — and apologized for the treatment Breedlove and her partner received.

“Cameron Village is a family friendly shopping center that welcomes the entire community,” the Cameron Village wall post read. “We sincerely regret Wed. events & we have contacted Ms. Breedlove and have set a meeting. Cameron Village is committed to maintaining an open and welcoming environment for everyone.”

Later in the comment threads on that post, Cameron Village said, “We wanted you to know that the officer involved was immediately suspended. The supervising officer and all security officers will receive additional sensitivity training.”

As of Saturday morning, SONG is still planning to hold their demonstration at 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 17 at Cameron Village. For more information, visit southernersonnewground.org.

Before Cameron Village’s response was made public, Breedlove said her group has just one “concrete demand” for York Properties — that the company institute LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination training for all their security staff.

She added, “We certainly wouldn’t mind an apology either, to tell you the truth.”