Can’t Always Get Fresh at Tim Horton’s

Couple Kicked Out for Kissing

Graphic Clément Liu

Oh, the queer, religious, coffee shop politics of small-town, southwestern Ontario…

In late September, Riley Duckworth and her partner Patricia Pattenden exchanged an embrace outside a Blenheim, ON Tim Horton’s window and were promptly asked to leave the premises.

The person who was “uncomfortably distracted” by their kissing—which, it should be noted, was done in the presence of Duckworth’s parents—was Eric Revie, a Pentecostal assistant pastor at the Glad Tidings Community Church.

Revie told Canadian queer magazine Xtra that the women were “being disgusting […] tongues locked […] grabbing genitals,” while the women denied anything lewd went down in front of their folks.

They told the CBC the incident was a manifestation of the “rampant homophobia” that occurs in Blenheim and that the queer community was “feeling the chill.”

Upon Revie’s complaint, a Tim Horton’s manager asked the couple and Duckworth’s parents to leave, saying that the coffee chain was a “family friendly” establishment.

Despite the irony of the situation—that is, the girls were frequenting the coffee shop with their family—they left, told their story, and an “Occupy Timmie’s” sprung up on Facebook, resulting in the staging of a ‘kiss-in’ against the coffee-brewing corporation.

This isn’t the first time Tim Horton’s has felt the heat for questionable queer politicking—in 2009, they came under fire for nearly providing 250 cups of free coffee for a “Marriage and Family Day,” in Rhode Island, which was organized by an anti-gay National Organization for Marriage group. Canadians weren’t happy with it.

For many, kicking out the Ontarian lesbians confirmed that Tim Horton’s—and, by extension, the very cultural fabric and values of this nation (if we are to believe their commercials, anyways)—is no homo.

On Oct. 24, nearly a month after the original incident, the company apologized, and the reverend has since said he didn’t know the orientation of the couple.

So hold the Timbit: you’re telling me an incident was perhaps blown out of proportion because a member of the church was being judgmental? Shocking.

What’s interesting about this story, however, is that when the LGBT community of Blenheim—which is said to have only three or four “out” members, but many allies—rallied behind the women and created an “Occupy Timmie’s” sit-in, the local Chatham-Kent LGBT community group said, while they supported the women, they weren’t interested in attending.

A man who only would go by ‘Randy’ came out in full force, however, holding a sign that read: “It’s not gay, it’s not straight, it’s GET A ROOM.”

Despite the national press coverage and the homophobic heat this particular story generated, the incident in question may actually have nothing at all to do with the sexual orientation of the women.

Perhaps this is why Pride Chatham-Kent gracefully bowed out of the spotlight and Randy may have actually got it right: this has everything to do with said Pentecostal brother being a prude, and the unspoken rules of public displays of affection.

Keeping lesbian love—or love in general, if we are to believe the Reverend didn’t know the girls were girls—“behind closed doors” seems to be what this issue boils down to.

In what spaces, in 2011, is it acceptable to show affection with your partner?

Does PDA warrant banishment from a fast-food chain? What are the ‘rules’ of public affection? Does it depend on whether or not there’s a Holy Man in the building? How much tongue, or how little, necessitates denial of a double-double?

While the women hope their story will start a necessary conversation about homophobia in Blenheim in particular, until we know more than this “he said, she said,” a dangerous precedent has been set: the only French acceptable in Tim Horton’s is a French Vanilla.

You’ve been warned, Canadians.