Tim Hortons lesbian row spurs protest

Approximately 20 people staged a sit-in Thursday at a southwestern Ontario Tim Hortons, which asked a lesbian couple to leave the property after they were seen kissing outside the restaurant's window.

Riley Duckworth and her partner Patricia Pattenden, the couple at the centre of the attention, said they were happy with the turnout.

The two held hands during the demonstration.

Staff at the Blenheim, Ont., Tim Hortons asked the couple to leave after Rev. Eric Revie took offence over what he considered inappropriate displays of public affection between Duckworth and Pattenden.

Southwestern Ontario's gay and transgender community took exception to the couple's ejection from the premises and some planned the protest.

However, the gay and transgender community in Blenheim has come under fire for refusing to participate in a protest against a Tim Hortons restaurant, which asked a lesbian couple to leave the property after they were seen kissing.

Sarah Fraleigh, the former president of Chatham-Kent Pride, said she would not attend the sit-in Thursday afternoon.

She said her group has been criticized for taking a back seat in the matter, but defends her decision.

"I do believe and support the girls, but I am not interested in attending this demonstration," Farleigh said. "We have done a lot to develop relationships in the community. We don't want to do anything to sever those ties."

Pattenden, who is from Blenheim, disagreed. She said her town is not accepting of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, which she estimates has approximately three or four members.

In an email to CBC News, Tracy Lamourie, a social activist organizing the sit-in, called Blenheim's public reaction to the incident "small town anger" and said people are "circling the wagons" around the gay and transgender community in Blenheim.

"The response of some members of the local gay community in Blenheim is somewhat understandable. There has been a lot of community heat," Lamourie said. "The local gay community has been feeling the chill. There is rampant homophobia around here."

Revie said the couple's public display of affection outside the restaurant included what he called extreme and passionate kissing involving their tongues. He said one was straddling the other's lap.

The couple denied that claim during the protest.

Duckworth did she was standing between Pattenden's legs when she gave her a kiss on the cheek.

The two did not say Thursday whether the incident is now behind them. They are still considering their options, including filing a human rights complaint.

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