A gay couple has given the “middle finger emoji” to a supermarket chain after being warned by security for holding hands during a shopping expedition.
Thomas Rees, 32, and his boyfriend Josh were pulled aside by a security guard after they finished paying for their shopping – and warned that another customer had complained about them holding hands and showing public displays of affection.
Rees, an account manager, said he was “shocked and dumbfounded” by the security guard’s actions at a Sainsbury’s supermarket in Hackney, England.
“My boyfriend and I went to our local Sainsbury’s holding hands as we normally do, just general public displays of affection and we didn’t notice anything untoward or weird,” he told ITV News.
“In East London it’s not uncommon but we noticed the security guard staring.”
They had just finished paying when Rees said the security guard called them over “with a finger” and asked them to follow him outside.
It was then that he questioned whether he had accidentally put something in his pocket.
“When we got outside I was ready to apologise and then he said a customer had complained about our behaviour,” he said.
“My blood boiled. I was shaking and dumbfounded and unable to respond. He kept repeating the customer felt our behaviour was inappropriate.”
In an attempt to placate the couple, Sainsbury’s later offered a £10 gift card as a goodwill gesture.
To the bigot who complained about my bf & I holdin hands & the security guard at @sainsburys who felt the need to 'talk' to us outside🖕🏻
— Thomas Rees (@doganddinosaur) August 8, 2016
@doganddinosaur Sorry Thomas, can you DM some more details please? Neil.
— Sainsbury's (@sainsburys) August 8, 2016
But Rees said he would prefer that store trained its staff about LGBT issues.
“They need to be articulate and communicate effectively with the public,” he said.
“If he (the security guard) had training he wouldn’t have handled it in the way he did.”
Discriminating against someone based on sexual orientation is a potential breach of the 2010 Equality Act which could lead to a fine of up to £5000.
Speaking to Buzzfeed, Rees said he there was no sense of humility in the guard’s actions.
“I refuse to believe this would have happened to a heterosexual couple – we just stared in disbelief. The issue here is it felt like like 1960s Britain.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson told Buzzfeed: “We do not tolerate discrimination in any form. We are investigating this urgently with our security contractor.”