After KOMO 4 broke the news that the Mariners almost kicked a lesbian couple out of Safeco Field for kissing during an Ms game earlier this week, Mariners public information director Rebecca Hale clarified: the complaint wasn't just about lesbians kissing, but about lesbians "kissing and groping."
The addition of groping to the kissing charges already leveled against her came as a shock to Sirbrina Guerrero, 23, one of the two women accused. "Oh my God," said Guerrero when I got her on the phone, "that is so far from the truth, it's ridiculous."
Guerrero points out that when KOMO first talked to the Mariners about the incident, the organization didn't say anything about groping.
"When did their story change?" Guerrero asks. "When they came up to us during the game we were told to stop kissing, that a woman had complained about her kids seeing two women kissing. [Then] we were told to stop 'making out,' and now all of the sudden we're making out and groping? Where did that come from?"
Jordin Silver, a friend who was at the game with Guerrero, also rejects the "groping" charge. "She was there with a girl she is dating," says Silver, "and they hadn't seen each other in a while. So they were holding hands, a peck here and there. Nothing inappropriate for a setting with children."
Silver also points out that "there were tons of straight people kissing all over," and no one was bothering these opposite-sex couples. She took a picture of a straight couple a few rows in front of their group—a straight couple "making out" right in front of a child, no less.
The Mariners code of conduct for fans famously bans "displays of affection not appropriate in a public, family setting." Which means fans at the ballpark are banned from engaging in skeezy PDA anyway—at home I can watch the game in a sling, if I like. But since "family" is often right-wing code for "antigay" (see: "family values," "Family Research Council," "the traditional family"), while I had her on the phone I took the opportunity to ask Mariners spokeswoman Hale just how the Mariners organization defines the word "family."
"I don't know," Hale replied after a short pause.
My boyfriend and I have season tickets and we take our 10-year-old son to the ballpark all the time. Do we qualify as a "family" at Safeco Field?
"We need all the fans we can get right now," said Hale. "We're not going to discriminate against anybody based on any classification at all—age, race, religion, sexual orientation. We are welcoming to all individuals and we want to create an atmosphere at the ballpark where everyone feels welcome and everyone can come and have a good time."
Hale insisted that the Mariners don't necessarily believe the women were kissing and groping, only that the complaint, as they understand it now, included both the K and G words.
"What we're trying to do now is figure out exactly what happened," said Hale. "We need to talk to as many of the folks who were there as possible."
To that end, the Ms are following up with the women who were told they would have to stop kissing and the "seating hosts" who were involved. If the seating hosts were in the wrong—if they applied a different standard to same-sex kissing than they were applying to opposite-sex kissing—then "appropriate actions will be taken," Hale said. "If we have an employee who is not interpreting our policy correctly, we'll deal with that."
But it's hard to see how this dispute will end with anything besides a seat-host-says/lesbian-couple-says impasse. Guerrero and her friends say that she wasn't "making out" with her date, there were only a few quick kisses, and they're adamant that there was no groping. The woman who complained about them (whom no one has talked to) and the seat host who told the couple they would have to knock it off or risk being ejected (whom only the Ms have talked to) may see things—the same things—very differently.
Many heterosexuals regard any signs of same-sex affection as shove-it-down-our-throats assaults on all things good and decent. A straight kiss is cute; a lesbian kiss is lewd. A boy with his arm around the shoulder of a girl is endearing; a boy with his arm around another boy is groping. So we may have two wildly different takes on the exact same dyke PDA, and it's hard to see what action the Ms will be able to take after this investigation is over—besides, perhaps, a "we'll never know what really happened" shrug. Which is probably just what the Ms want.
Finally, while I had Guerrero on the phone, I asked her about what some of her friends think is the real reason the Ms are floating the groping charge: Guerrero was a contestant on the latest installment of the risqué MTV dating show A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.
"There's a difference between the way you act on a show like that and the way you act when you're in a place like a ballpark," Guerrero says. "It's offensive to me to suggest that I don't know the difference between an MTV reality dating show and a Mariners game."
As for the Mariners' commitment to, in Hale's words, being "welcoming to all individuals," including queer fans: The Giants, Padres, A's, Dodgers—basically every other MLB team on the West Coast—all have officially sponsored and recognized gay nights or pride nights at their ballparks. Seeing as Seattle has the largest gay community per capita next to San Francisco, how come the Seattle Mariners don't have a gay night?
"I don't know," Hale said. "I don't think it's a situation where we have made a decision that we are not going to do that. I honestly can't tell you why it hasn't happened."
Hale promised to talk with her marketing and promotions people next week, and get back to me next Friday.