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ABC tests reactions to gay couples kissing in public

by Nick Langewis

"Is mainstream USA ready to tolerate 'gay PDA'?"

On Friday, ABC's 20/20 tackled a palpable double-standard facing same-sex couples who are affectionate in public.

"More and more," explains John Quinones of ABC's interest in covering the subject of gay public displays of affection ("PDAs"), "you can't turn on a television or change the channel without seeing gay couples kissing in public."

In the segment, a straight couple making out in a restaurant get strange looks and mocking applause. Two test couples, hired as actors but in actual committed relationships, are posted in a public spot in Birmingham, Alabama, where reactions from passersby to their kisses and embraces are filmed.

With the two men, James and Kaolin, witnesses are largely indifferent or grudgingly polite, but a couple reactions, especially from older people, are pronounced; one woman calls the police, and another yells at the test couple to "get a (expletive) room."

One particularly welcoming member of the public, however, was Dana Smith.

"My dad forced a lot of things on me," Smith explains to ABC's Quinones. "Politics, religion -- everything. And, when I grew up, I realized 'Hey, I have my own mind...I am my own person.' And I don't shun anyone."

Ashby and Leslie, the lesbian couple, got their own share of the "stares and glares," but were noticeably well received by certain men in both Birmingham, and then in a new test location in a more "blue" spot; Verona, New Jersey; where the displays evoked the same mix of reactions they did in Alabama.

The segment, courtesy of ABC News, is available to view below, as broadcast on April 25, 2008.


Originally published on Monday April 28, 2008.

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