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A small-town Pentecostal pastor has formed an unlikely alliance with members of the gay and transgendered community who say he is being harassed and threatened by social activists who have staged a massive protest, after he complained to a coffee shop manager that a couple he thought was a young boy and girl, but turned out to be two women, were making out in front of his children.
Reverend Eric Revie, assistant pastor at the Pentecostal Glad Tidings Community Church in Blenheim, Ont., 100 km east of Windsor, said he has no problem with gay couples showing affection in public. Instead, he said he complained because the couple, whatever their orientation, were engaged in an inappropriately heavy make out session in front of his three-year-old son at Tim Hortons.
He has drawn support from members of the local of the gay and transgendered community who say the barrage of angry emails, threatening phone calls and protests against the gay-friendly church and coffee shop are misguided and detracting from legitimate cases of homophobia in the small community.
“This has been blown way out of proportion,” said Ty Williams, a local gay man who has since met with the pastor. “The church is not homophobic and this reverend is getting threats, his kids are scared to be at their house. It is slander what this group is doing.”
Rev. Revie said he was out with a youth group and his four children, the youngest three years old, at a Tim Hortons last month when he spotted the couple on a bench outside with their tongues locked together and their hands down each other’s pants.
“They were straddling each other … and really making out,” he said. He asked a store manager to tell the couple to “tone it down” in front of his children.
“I don’t have anything against the gay community as a pastor. I don’t hate them,” he said. “My concern was I was in a public place, Tim Hortons, with my family and my children and if they had turned around they would have seen this nearly pornographic image.”
The women, Riley Duckworth, 25, and Patricia Pattenden, 23, say they were having coffee with a group of family members, including Ms. Pattenden’s mom, when Ms. Pattenden put her arm around Ms. Duckworth and gave her a peck on the cheek. Ms. Duckworth, who describes herself as gender queer, or androgynous, said they noticed Rev. Revie staring at them before a store manager told them to leave or warned that she would call the police.
“She said that it was a family-friendly environment and what we were doing wasn’t acceptable,” she said. “We weren’t doing anything wrong. I can see if we were making out, if we were fully going at it with children there, but we weren’t.”
In a statement, Tim Hortons said the woman had been asked to leave because “the guests’ behaviour went beyond public displays of affection and was making other guests feel uncomfortable,” but that managers had apologized and invited the women back to the store.
The dispute boiled over after the couple contacted Michelle Boyce, head of Alphabet Community Centre, a London, Ont., gay and transgendered group, to help them file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Ms. Boyce’s account of the couple’s story on Facebook — including a description of how the church group held a 15-person prayer vigil for the women in the Tim Hortons parking lot that Rev. Revie said was actually just parents standing around chatting — elicited a huge outcry of support from as far away as California and prompted local organizers to plan a protest at the coffee shop on Thursday that had garnered more than 500 online supporters by Monday afternoon.
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