Here we go again. A bar patron asked to leave a bar on the basis of something seemingly discriminatory.
[public.] displays of affection
In this particular case, it was a lesbian couple asked to leave [public.] bar on Courtenay Place after a night spent there with friends. At 2.50am, when they leaned in for a kiss, they were very promptly asked to leave.
I’m sure we can all agree that discrimination of any kind in any 21st century First World country is outdated, out of fashion and really only continuing to maintain or grow its influence in small pockets of the South Island (a la Right Wing Resistance). However first I’d just like to examine the complaint itself and where the discrimination may have been present, or perceived to have been present.
Within five hours of the first post referencing the incident on the UniQ Victoria page, 27 posts had been written on Public’s Wall claiming that Public were, amongst other things, risking their reputation, their license, being discriminatory, being hateful et al.
Based purely on the information I’ve seen and what has been published publically, I think one should have just as much of a problem with the calls for the protest of Public as I do with the proposition that they might be homophobic. Very few of the comments that are published condemn the individual; in fact, most seem to either imply or straight out claim that Public hates homos. One comment even suggested that they’re happy to hire the gays but they’re not so happy taking their custom and having them sit with all their other customers – it certainly evokes a sense of pre-1960s Deep South American racism. There have also been calls, based on the little evidence released, for public (lol) boycotts, protests and press statements. Obviously, based on the little information we have and the likelihood of a misunderstanding, this is ludicrous. I often think we on the left can get a bit carried away sometimes.
If Public were to be charged with breaches of the Human Rights Act, based purely on the information thus far released, they’d get off for a few reasons:
1) You cannot prove they were asked to leave because of their sexual orientation, or because Public has a no-homo policy. The person who asked them to leave did not mention sexual orientation nor does the bar have an anti-gay policy or agenda – a quick look at the staff working there will tell you as much
2) The potential for misunderstanding. As no discriminatory words or statements were ever actually said, saying that that was the motive for evicting these girls relies purely on ability to read body language; a thoroughly untrustworthy and legally dismissable form of evidence, especially if alcohol had been consumed that night
3) The bar was closed at 3am, and these girls were asked to leave at 2.50am. There was definitely, as one commenter remarked, possibility for misunderstanding regarding reasons for ‘eviction’
4) As a gay man, I have often met other gay friends there, albeit reluctantly (plastic menus and big screen TVs….eeeeewww….). Whilst I’ve never indulged in PDA there, I’ve often been with people that have (refer to the point about we on the left getting carried away sometimes…). As soulless, tasteless and (x)less as I find that bar, I can at least say I have never experienced any outwards form of prejudice or discrimination there whether on my own or with others. I doubt it would be very easy to find cases of gays that can say they have been, therefore hard to establish that its a systemic problem at Public. You can’t campaign to change a problem unless you can absolutely prove it exists.
5) This seems to be an isolated incident. This is the first complaint of its type I’ve ever heard of in Wellington, let alone of a bar that hires openly gay staff in Courtenay Place.
6) A bar owner, licensee or building owner can legally ask anyone to leave the building for any reason unless one can prove the reason is discriminatory. Unless they made clear to you the reason for eviction was ‘because you’re gay’ or ‘because you’re a woman’ there are no grounds under the Human Rights Act in which you can claim a breach of that same act.
[public.] protection under the law
The most infamous case of such a breach in the last year was when a patron was evicted from the Turf Bar in Christchurch and said it was because of his facial ta moko. There was also a similar case where the licensee of Bourbon St bar in Christchurch was fined for the same breach in 2009. The crucial part here is that they told the patrons involved the reasons they were asked to leave. Miss Galbraith doesn’t seem to have been told which will give Public protecion under the law. The body language described could just as easily have been attributed to a staff member that didn’t like their shoes, hair style or just PDA in general — all perfectly legal reasons to ask someone to leave.
Innocent until proven guilty has also always been a fundamental rule of the legal system and democracies all around the world. We saw what happened with Darren Hughes last year. Why are we now able to go to the media and make pretty serious public judgments on people and businesses when the media couldn’t do it to one of our own last year?
Now given all of the above, why are so many people so quick to jump on the bandwagon and start claiming that Public is a prejudiced business? Talks of a boycott, protest, visible and public condemnation of what is being called a Human Rights breach, threats to go to the press, when there is still a giant possibility it was just a giant misunderstanding? Is it that much of a stretch to imagine that these girls were asked to leave a bar, in the gay capital of New Zealand, which hires openly gay staff, that was closing in ten minutes, by a guy who had bad timing and rubbish body language? Why do we all jump on the discrimination train straight away without carefully considering all the factors?
A few posts on a facebook page is hardly Kony2012, but surely y’all can remember the controversy that was caused when people were signing up and buying t-shirts for an organisation they’d never heard of before, nor cared to research. It’s this arbitrary wagon-riding that’s damaging the credibility of everyone.
any [public.]ity is good [public.]ity?
It also isn’t too hard to see the possibility that, if Public is found to be innocent of discrimination (has anyone questioned whether the guy who asked them to leave is gay?) and it’s reported (as seems to be the desire of a lot of people) the bar gets a lot busier by people who’ve read what’s reported and have come to the same conclusion I’ve proposed.
What will the real public think about gays then? Overly eager to cry ‘discrimination,’ quick to jump to the most negative conclusion and on the loudest bandwagon…Sound familiar? As someone who is both Maori and gay, I have been fighting that stereotype for long enough and it’s not fun.
[public.] disclosure statement
I hate discrimination. The idea of treating some lesser than others because of their age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other things they have no control over makes me incredibly uneasy and fucked off. Some of my best friends are gay and lesbian lobbyists, human rights lawyers, law students and Gender Studies tutors.
What pisses me off just as much is when people make massive claims with little perspective and little information for as much effect as possible without asking more questions. I’m not saying this couple didn’t suffer discrimination. I’m saying that based on the information that has been made public so far, there’s insufficient evidence to say they certainly did. However instead of realising that, instead of realising that just because one bartender may have discriminated that it doesn’t necessarily make the business owners homophobes, people have just decided to jump on the bandwagon saying its ‘a violation of our human rights.’ Yes, it is, but only if you can prove it, and based on the available information, you can’t.
In the [public.] eye
The more frivolous and constant the protests, boycotts and press releases the less credibility we hold as a community. Do your research, get some perspective, and always ask more questions. Sort out these problems quietly between the parties involved before you go to the press or set up a social justice page without giving the people involved a chance to respond. Don’t just jump straight from first gear to last resort on such little information.
Whether you agree with what I’ve said or not, it’s a pretty standard concession that we live in an overly-litigious society. Not as much as the USA, but still pretty quick to jump to first to facebook, then the press, then legal avenues if we feel we’ve been slighted, ripped off and treated unfairly. The lack of real news in New Zealand certainly helps this attitude.
On this note I think it fair to finish with a warning first to the guy involved, and then to everybody else. Be careful about how you treat others. We’re more electronically networked than ever before. If something you do may be misconstrued as discriminatory, don’t do it. Regardless of whether you meant it or not, when you work in the public eye you’ve got certain responsibilities you have to fulfill.
And to everyone else: keep asking questions. Investigate things properly before jumping to judgment. It both annoys and inspires me the way students for equality have picked this up. It shows you still care about social justice, which is a great legacy of the student movement. However another important part of university is the necessity of free inquiry. Asking questions, being critical, analysing, researching, learning and understanding that one issue can have many viewpoints. Remember the importance of perspective. This guy’s career, the bar’s business, your credibility could all be lost due to a misunderstanding. If it’s proven not to be one, by all means protest, picket and pash-in all you like. But until it is, hold off on the [public.] humiliation and [public.] executions, eh?
I’ve often thought we on the left can get a little carried away sometimes.
- Lesbians’ story not accurate
- Galbraith stands by Fowler
- [public.] enemy no. 1: Genevieve Fowler
- UN: Respect gay rights
- TV3 may have aided retraction