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April 30, 2012 | by  | in News |
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Human Rights Complaint Withdrawn

Public accusations spur fiery debate.

The couple that alleged a breach of human rights from Public bar has withdrawn from furthering their complaint to the Human Rights Commission, causing a divide within Wellington’s queer community.

Early Sunday morning after sharing a kiss in the bar, Rebekah Galbraith and Jennie Leadbeater were approached by the bar doorman and asked to leave the premises. The couple claims that the kiss shared was chaste and they would not have been asked to leave if they were straight.

Galbraith posted an open letter of complaint on the Facebook page of the bar that has attracted strong support and attention with 408 comments and 1130 likes. Posters shamed the alleged behaviour of the staff member involved and called for the boycotting of the bar.

Despite negative social media comments, Public management asserts the women were acting in a manner inappropriate of any couple and refute claims of homophobia. Gina Mills, owner of the bar, says that she and her employees are firmly opposed to any form of discrimination and believes the doorman had legitimate cause to ask the women to leave.

The review of CCTV footage shows the couple being affectionate whilst sitting at the bar, kissing and hugging each other before moving to a corner of the bar unreached by security cameras before being asked to leave. Despite showing the couple engaged in more than the one chaste kiss stated, the tape could not prove the truth of either side.

Mills states the behaviour of the couple at the bar as being inappropriate and their claims unfounded whilst Galbraith, despite withdrawing her complaint, maintains her previous account of events. She hopes to move unwanted media attention away from herself, girlfriend and the bar and get on with work and university responsibilities.

Following the withdrawl of the complaint, prominent blogging site of the queer community, aaronandandy.com, criticised VUWSA Queer Rep Genevieve Fowler for “jumping the gun” and speaking out in support of the complainants without sufficient evidence.

One blogger claimed as a result “[the queer community] had lost credibility because now the world knows we’re far more willing to cry discrimination before listening to other sides of the story.”

Victoria University student group UniQ President, Matthew Ellison weighed in on the debate by posting a diplomatic letter on Facebook addressed to “the queer and wider communities of Wellington.” He labelled the initial attacks on Public surrounding the allegations as “unfair.”

“This issue has been largely distorted by strong opinions and the willful ignorance of many commentators, and now the queer community’s aggression has focused inward,” he said.

He went on to offer support to the actions of Fowler, but said that those involved had learnt a lot from what critics have labelled a “PR disaster”.

“Collectively, our voice is strong, and we have the ability to make a difference. Of course it is important to constantly examine ourselves and to keep ourselves honest, but we’re losing sight of the bigger picture,” Ellison said.

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