A gay couple says a security guard at a California shopping mall reprimanded them and asked them to leave after he saw them holding hands and kissing.
Daniel Chesmore and Jose Guzman were shopping at Westfield Galleria in Roseville, California on 2 March when the incident occurred.
'I feel like we’re always treated differently because we’re gay,' Guzman told Fox station KTXL in Sacramento. 'It makes me sad.'
KTXL was told by a guard that Chesmore and Guzman were treated as 'any couple' would be if they were kissing or holding hands in public.
That station reported that it stayed at the mall for several hours and saw many heterosexual couples engaging in such behavior and not a single one was approached by a guard.
A mall representative later told KTXL that anyone who violates the mall's Code of Conduct are asked to leave. But the station reported that when it checked the guidelines, there was no mention of kissing and holding hands.
Following the news reports, there has been a public a backlash on the mall's Facebook page.
'I shop here all the time and was so disappointed and appalled at this story,' wrote Rhonda Young. 'I have friends and family members who are gay and this broke my heart that these men were treated this way.'
Wrote Bobby Smith: 'I am ashamed that Westfield Galleria is located in California.'
The mall finally released a statement on Tuesday evening (5 March): 'All of our customers are welcome, and all are welcome equally - including those displaying affection,' it stated. 'We do have rules and occasionally our security officers approach customers, inform them of the rules, and ask them to comply. We’re sorry for any misperceptions with regard to the incident reported upon yesterday.'
This is not enough to silence critics.
'Did you fire the security guard?' Eddie Hollander asked on Facebook. 'Otherwise, empty words, PR and spin!'