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Homophobia complaint arises at Kelowna hotel
A local lesbian couple is claiming a simple kiss opened their eyes to a type of discrimination deeply imbedded in Kelowna.
Susan Hillock, her girlfriend and two other women went to the Vines Lounge at the Delta Grand Hotel for a post-hockey meal this weekend, when their night was upended by what they think was a clear case of homophobia.
“We were sitting quietly at the bar, and I leaned over and kissed my partner on the mouth,” said Hillock, a UBC Okanagan professor, who teaches about homophobia and discrimination, among other things.
“It was a chaste kiss.”
Regardless, they believe their public display of affection ruffled some feathers and set off a chain of events that has her considering legal action against the hotel chain.
“The two women with us said the (restaurant manager) had walked by when I kissed her and his face (looked) disgusted,” she said.
He then went to the bar, had a conversation with the server and Hillock learned shortly thereafter, cut her off.
“I asked the manager to come over and said, ‘why are you refusing me service?’” she said.
She was told she’d been “over-served” and was being “over gregarious.”
Considering the boisterous group of Americans at the table next to her, Hillock found the “over-gregarious” part of the story to be a bit suspect. It seemed even more at odds with the truth considering two of their group hadn’t been drinking at all, and she and her girlfriend had a minimal amount of alcohol.
“From our point of view, I kissed my girlfriend, then they took our food and drinks away,” she said, adding everybody was refused service, not just her.
Considering her educational background, Hillock chose not to just skulk away when confronted with the embarrassing situation.
“I went to each group of people there…I was crying by then because I was quite upset…and said ‘they are kicking us out because we are lesbian women.”
She also asked them to boycott the Delta and leave without paying.
Following “due process” she and her girlfriend went to the desk manager, made their concerns known and her friends stayed behind to pay the bill.
“I was really, really upset,” she said.
“Here I am, a 50 year old woman, bawling on the couch, being treated like we’re criminals…second class citizens.”
It was an unsettling episode that reinforced Hillock’s belief that Kelowna is a less than gay-friendly community. As she pointed out, a “known homophobe” was elected mayor, and many queer people she’s met are afraid to show their affection for their spouses or partners in public.
That said, the Delta claims that Hillcock’s view is at odds with what their staff, and restaurant patrons, witnessed.
Daniel Bibby, the hotel’s general manager, said they’ve contacted each member of the group of four Monday to further discuss what happened, and come to a resolution. A meeting had yet to be scheduled.
In the meantime, however, he’s sticking with his staff member’s decision to cut off service.
“From statements we’ve gathered, we have a clear picture of this case. I am concerned about the allegations and I take their comments seriously,” said Bibby.
“We don’t permit discrimination of any kind. We respect communication and equality—so for me this came as quite a shock.”
By his estimates, Hillock was drunk so she was cut off and what happened after is all a part of a “big misunderstanding.”
“From what I see this is the hotel being compliant with B.C. liquor laws,” he said.
“We have a great team of service staff who are well trained, and refuse additional drinks to people they believe are intoxicated…sexual orientation was never the issue.”
Bibby says witnesses have submitted statements reinforcing their view that once Hillock was cut off, her group became aggressive. That’s when they were ousted.
Hillock denies this account vehemently and is consulting lawyers to deal with what she deems to be a slanderous characterization. She’s also thinking about going to the Human Rights Tribunal.
Bibby said he hopes that the misunderstanding will be resolved before then, and Hillock and her friends will continue to go to the Vines restaurant.