UK: Gay couple say kiss got them kicked out of pub

Jonathan and James were asked to leave after a "hands-on-the-table" kiss.

Updated: Apr 16, 2011, 11:36 AM IST

London: Two gay men say their first-date kiss got them thrown out of a London pub — and turned them into a Twitter sensation.

Jonathan Williams says he and his date, James Bull, were asked to leave after sharing what they described as a "hands-on-the-table" kiss at the John Snow pub in London`s Soho, normally known as one of London`s gay-friendliest neighbourhoods. Anger snowballed after Williams tweeted about the incident late Wednesday, and within 24 hours, the story was on the front page of Britain`s Guardian newspaper and the pair were describing their ordeal on national radio.

The pub closed its doors on Friday afternoon after hundreds signed up to a Facebook group promising a three-hour "kiss-in" at the Snow. That didn`t stop the protesters. A raucous crowd of about 300 mostly gay men joined Williams and Bull outside the pub on Friday evening, many embracing and kissing each other in front of a large media presence, and a rainbow flag was draped outside the closed door.

The kiss-in`s organiser, a 50-year-old manager named Paul Shetler, said he first heard about the incident through Twitter. Shetler, who is originally from New York, said the incident "struck me as the kind of thing I would see in a small town in the States, not in the capital of the UK”.

But gay advocates said those kinds of snubs weren`t uncommon, even in cosmopolitan areas such as Soho.

"You would be surprised," said Gary Nunn, of UK gay lobbying group Stonewall.

Attitudes toward homosexuality are generally relaxed in Britain, where civil partnerships are accorded the same legal standing as marriages and politicians of all stripes eagerly emphasise their gay-friendly credentials.

But controversies over homosexuality still creep into the news. Recently, a Christian couple was fined for refusing to allow a gay couple the use of a double room at their hotel in southern England, a case which drew national attention.

More dramatically, a gay man was stamped and kicked to death on Trafalgar Square in 2009 — a brutal hate crime which shocked the city.

"If that can happen in Trafalgar Square, meters from Soho, on a Saturday night then this sort of thing can happen anywhere," Nunn said.

Neither Williams nor Bull returned requests for comment, but in a series of messages posted to the Web Williams expressed wonder at the speed with which the gay community had rallied to his defence.

Wednesday night "was my first `The Power of Twitter` moment”, he wrote. "Thank you very much everyone."

As to whether they`d be seeing each other again, Bull assured his Twitter followers that the two had "already arranged a second date before we even got to the pub!"

Bureau Report