Did Rite-Aid Kick Out A Gay Couple For Hugging?

Washington, D.C. is actually a pretty gay-friendly place—hell, even a few closeted types seem to find a way to make a living there. (Just a few.) But in early October a gay couple was thrown out of a Rite-Aid a few blocks away from the city’s traditional gay neighborhood for allegedly hugging each other in the store. According to them, while they were shopping, one of them hugged the other one from behind, and the store manager ran up and shouted, “Get out! Get out!” A few seconds later, the security guard told them they had to leave, although he said he didn’t know the reason why. The manager, Denny Getachew, won’t comment, and Rite Aid spokesperson told the local gay magazine, “We are looking into this matter, and we will take disciplinary action if need be.”

This week, about 50 people staged a “hug-in” at the store, which we can only imagine melted the eyes of any anti-gay witnesses. This is why you don’t let personal prejudices take control of you when you’re the manager of a store—the response from those you treated unfairly is 50 times worse.

“Animus in the Aisles” [MetroWeekly] (thanks to Brian!)

“Hugging it Out” [MetroWeekly]
“Rite Aid Hug-In a Success” [TheNewGay]
Fox News Coverage Of Hug-In [YouTube]
(Image: Fox 5 News, Washington, D.C.)


Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Does a store have a right to just kick anyone out for any reason? I would think they can, even if it is a stupid reason.

  2. Meg Marco says:

    @AlteredBeast: No.

  3. SOhp101 says:

    @AlteredBeast: Maybe to a certain extent, but if you mess with the bull, you’re gonna get the horns.

  4. VaMPKiSS1 says:

    @AlteredBeast: Actually technically they don’t, if they’re ‘open to the public’ the people who enter the space are protected by discrimination laws because the store could be deemed a public space. IANAL but I think that’s how that works.

  5. legotech says:

    They “reserve the right” to refuse to serve, but they still have to do that within the law…they can say, get out you are a smelly drunk and are not going to spend any money, but they can’t say get out you (racial/ethnic/religious/lifestyle) slur.

  6. interocitor says:

    @VaMPKiSS1: Stores such as Rite-Aid are considered “Semi-public.” So, a manager would have some legal right to kick people out for doing non-shopping related things. Like if a bunch of kids just came in and suddenly started playing Twister near the pharmacy. Especially if they were all dudes, I guess. And, maybe even if people just came in to hug? But yeah! I mean. . . I could imagine, say, two frisky teenagers being kicked out of a store for necking in the candy aisle — especially if they’re loitering around seeming like they’re not going to buy anything. But just hugging — yeah, there’s no way this would have been a problem between a guy and a girl. However, unless the store has a non-discrimination policy, it’s hard to pin down exactly what kind of official reprocussions he might face, if any. Loitering laws have been used against minorities many, many times in the past for stupid reasons.

  7. G-Dog says:

    Two men hugged…

  8. Crymson_77 says:

    @interocitor: I am willing to be that there is a diversity policy in place at Rite Aid. I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager will be summarily fired in short order.

  9. G-Dog says:

    Two human males made physical contact…

  10. G-Dog says:

    sorry, double post

  11. INconsumer says:

    well getting kicked out for being gay is one thing. getting kicked out for public display of affection is another. my point? how would the store owner know they were gay unless pda was involved. i’m not racist against gays, but that doesn’t mean i want to watch you be gay either. if i kissed my wife in the store, he could do the same thing. not my fault that men/women relations are more excepted than gay ones.

  12. llcooljabe says:

    I suspect that there’s more to this story that we are not being told.

  13. balthisar says:

    @legotech: Sure they can, most places. Gayness isn’t a protected class. Race is a protected class, so you can’t be kicked out for being black. If you’re black and show affection in public, then the affection in public part is no longer protected, so out you go.

    Manager being an asshole isn’t the same thing as violating the law.

  14. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @INconsumer: “racist against gays”? LOL.

  15. balthisar says:

    @G-Dog: assuming they’d otherwise each have a wife and child, then you’d have to say that two potential American families are destroyed. ;-)

  16. Girtych says:


    Well, regardless, I think this manager is going to be regretting his decision to be an arsehole. That “hug-in” looks like it’s generated a lot of negative press for his store.

  17. JayXJ says:

    @llcooljabe: I think that’s likely the case. My guess is that they were over doing public affection quite a bit. That will get any couple kicked out, straight or not.

  18. Skiffer says:

    Yeah, their “hugging” excuse sounds as accurate as the “(in)appropriately dressed” girl who was flashing her panties on the airplane:

    Before they were asked to leave, Hill says, ”I got behind him and was holding him…. We didn’t make a scene or anything, and then the manager happened to walk by and see us holding each other and he did like a double take.”

    Still doesn’t sound bad, but “hugging” still doesn’t sound accurate…

  19. INconsumer says:

    @Girtych: well if the store owner is a hardcore christian, i’m sure he could care less if gays shop at his stores.

    also, there is no such thing as bad publicity. just publicity.

  20. msilverman23 says:

    In answer to balthizar, sexual orientation is actually a protected class, at least in many jurisdictions, including Washington, DC. Thus, if the manager eject the couple due to their sexual orientation, he may be violating Washington DC law. Depending on the jurisdiction, violations of anti-discrimination ordinances are addressed by public action (the city investigates and fines the offender) and/or private action (the offended party is permitted to sue if they wish). Often times, a civil rights commission will work to arrange a settlement between the parties in order to avoid a lawsuit.

  21. Murph1908 says:

    I am not taking either side of this story. I am not gay, and I am not a hardcore Christian

    But apparently, the consensus on this board seems to think that expressing your right to be gay is to be tolerated more than expressing your right to not condone the lifestyle.

  22. Re. the “type” of hugging: imagine a man standing behind a woman with his arms around her while she’s looking at bottle of shampoo or something. It might or might not annoy you (it would annoy me because they’re unnecessarily blocking my path in the aisle), but it probably wouldn’t trigger your INAPPROPRIATE klaxon.

    Now imagine that same image with two men. A lot more people, particularly those who are anti-gay, will have synaptic freakouts.

    So yes, I think that what they were doing does count as hugging… at least it would if a straight couple did it.

  23. nickripley says:

    @INconsumer: It’s not the gay community’s fault you can’t differentiate your homophones. Accept, of course, the acceptions.

  24. INconsumer says:

    @Murph1908: i’m sure it will stay that way also. but i have to admit, as a consumer, i shouldn’t be subjected to that (gay pda, or any pda) when i’m trying to shop. we can be tolerate all we want, but if gays went around kissing eachother in stores (i realize this article is about hugging) i think they would definatly get asked to leave.

  25. vitaminct says:

    @balthisar: Actually, in the District of Columbia sexual orientation is a protected class under the DC Human Rights Act.

  26. INconsumer says:

    @nickripley: oh darn you planted the seed of doubt! yep you got me!

  27. LucyInTheSky says:

    YAY A HUG IN!!!

  28. mandarin says:

    Maybe they were cold…

  29. stopNgoBeau says:

    @INconsumer: I don’t think anyone should be kicked out for kissing. Making out, perhaps, but not simple kissing. Gay, straight, transy whatever…

  30. nickripley says:

    @Murph1908: Just because you don’t condone the lifestyle does not give YOU the right to infringe on any other person’s rights.

  31. INconsumer says:

    well i’m out. sorry for having a different opinion than the rest of you. i’ll try to conform more next time.

  32. girly says:

    I don’t know exactly what the manager’s reasons were, but I could see where he was coming from if he mistakenly thought he saw some kind of indecent exposure (it might have been easy to mistake in the position they were in).

  33. bohemian says:

    Hey I am offended by people who refuse to control their spawn in stores. Can I get them thrown out? Please?

    Two people hugging in a store, so what. At least it wasn’t two people fighting.

  34. XTC46 says:

    @balthisar: “Gayness isn’t a protect class” actually, sexual orientation is protected, beating up a guy because he is gay is not only assault/battery its a hate crime.

  35. homerjay says:

    Cue Ralph Wiggum: “Everyone’s hugging!!’

  36. Andrew says:

    Geez, another company to add to my shit list. Looks like it’s gonna be Walgreens for me from now on.

  37. Andrew says:

    @homerjay: That’s just wrong…

  38. scarletvirtue says:

    I’ve seen signs at restaurants and shops that say “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”.

    It sucks that the manager at that Rite-Aid threw them out (was he afraid that the customers and employees would catch Teh Gay or something?) – I’m sure that people have been kicked out for worse and/or weirder reasons.

    @G-Dog: Of course! We have to think of The Children (TM), can’t have them seeing anything beyond what we want them to see … lol

    Speaking of children, bohemian: I second that idea. I have no problem with kids, but when the parents let them run about without paying any attention – that really gets under my skin!

  39. INconsumer says:

    @bohemian: i’m offended by people who get offended.

  40. INconsumer says:

    @bohemian: all those kids = more money being spent. otherwise i’d think you’d have a winner.

  41. JiminyChristmas says:

    In the context of discrimination laws a place like Rite-Aid, or any other store, restaurant, office, etc. open to the public, is referred to as a public accommodation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the relevant legislation. It did not include sexual orientation (or gayness as some say).

    However, the Civil Rights Act is a federal law. States, municipalities, and other jurisdictions are free to pass legislation that expands the protections required by federal law. Ergo, teh gay is a protected class in some places. The District of Columbia is one such place.

    So, if the Rite-Aid manager had the individuals in question removed from the store because they were exhibiting “gay” but otherwise innocuous behavior then Rite-Aid violated these men’s civil rights. As such, Rite-Aid can rightfully expect to get sued and a particular manager can expect to get fired or sent out for some training on how one properly operates a public accommodation.

  42. Paul D says:

    @INconsumer: sorry for having a different opinion than the rest of you. i’ll try to conform more next time.


  43. magic8ball says:

    “Denny Getachew”? That cannot possibly be the manager’s real name.

  44. DAK says:

    @G-Dog: I get the Lewis Black reference, even if no one else does. Good work.

    @VaMPKiSS1: I’m trying desperately to be an adult and not make an “I ANAL” joke right now.

  45. realjen01 says:

    @INconsumer: your post is ridiculous on so many different levels.

  46. realjen01 says:

    @realjen01: and i only read the first one! i revise my statement…all of your posts are ridiculous on so many different levels!

  47. fileunder says:

    sounds Ethiopian.

    yoinks, if only this guy knew what (used to – allegedly!) happen in the showers of the WSC gym up the block.

  48. cryrevolution says:

    @JiminyChristmas: Way to put it! I don’t understand how anyone on this comment section can equate what the manager did as “logical”. These are grown men. I’m sure they weren’t making out, tongue and all, in the middle of a Rite Aid. Granted, it does seem a bit off the wall, but if this manager is in any way anti-gay or a homophobic, I would expect this kind of behavior. I hope they sue & win big.

  49. Antediluvian says:

    well, as a gay-American, I’m not surprised that some people (glares at INsumer) can’t tell the difference between SEX and AFFECTION, bu I’m still disappointed when it happens.

  50. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Obviously, the store manager was only trying to prevent other customers from catching “Teh Ghay.”

    (Yes, this is sarcasm).

    So I wonder if the store manager would have flipped out if two straight guys had hugged?

    Somebody is just a wee bit homophobic.

  51. cryrevolution says:

    @INconsumer: Errrr…I don’t think anyone mentioned anything about kissing. This is about hugging, dude. And last I checked hugging wasn’t illegal. I don’t know how you equate hugging (and for all the manager knew, it could have been two straight men) to PDA you should not be subjected to. Way to sound completely crazy.

  52. agb says:

    Hint: Racist against gays = gaycist.

  53. ShadowFalls says:

    Is anyone shocked that the article mentioned a “local gay paper”?

    What paper is this? I only have one for the city and one for the area… I rarely even get the one for the city…

    I do not know exactly what happened, but some behavior is not accepted in public places, whether you are gay or not. I don’t think any form of hugging would fit that category, short of you stripping naked and then hugging anyways…

    @Chris Walters:

    As you mentioned, the only thing that would bother me in either situation, is if they were blocking my way or not. I don’t know about anyone else, but you can go and be sensual all you want, just don’t be sensual in my way.

  54. @ShadowFalls: On closer inspection, Metro Weekly calls itself a magazine, not a paper. Thanks for catching this—I’ve corrected the post.

  55. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Murph1908: The manager presumably had the right to express himself. He had every right to say “I don’t approve of gays hugging in my store.” What he did not have the right to do was to kick them out when they were legitimate shoppers and not doing anything illegal or that interfered with other shoppers.

  56. SteveMD2 says:

    What this is all about is not gay’s hugging each other in public, which is just fine, just as a hetero couple can certainly hug each other, kiss, etc. Apparently the store manager is the victim, yes VICTIM of a right wing church. And what the church has done is instill in him via terrorization a fear, about gay people, that leads to all sorts of anxieties whenever he encounters them. This terrorization, which creates fear and anxiety, is one of the great shames of our society. I know quite a few gay people, several of them will hug me, and I will hug them back when we meet occasionally. It has nothing to do with sex, btw. It has to do with telling them and their telling me “I’m ok, your ok”.

    For the manager, it should be out the door. For the company, it should be a big ass fine, suspended as long as they put in place training for all employees that gay people are to be treated equally along with everyone else.

  57. crankymediaguy says:

    “i’m not racist against gays, but that doesn’t mean i want to watch you be gay either. if i kissed my wife in the store, he could do the same thing. not my fault that men/women relations are more excepted than gay ones.”

    No, you’re not racist against gays. You’re not grammatical with the English, either.

  58. Jesse in Japan says:

    I don’t care if they are gay or straight, public displays of affection in a Rite-Aid are not appropriate. Then again, I doubt they would have been kicked out of the store if this had been a man and a woman.

  59. regina says:

    It’s a free country last time I checked. If you don’t want to see people hug you can exercise your right to look away. Far away, like out of town. Or out of the country like Mr. Japan.

  60. INconsumer says:

    i think i drew as many comments as the article itself did. lol. sorry i can’t be more supportive of gays. personally there was only ONE way the store owner would have known they were gay, and that is if they were being gay in the store.

  61. INconsumer says:

    and sorry for not being an english major. (i however am a math major). english make no sense to me. its the most outlandish of all languages. but by racist i of course meant, i don’t hate gays for being gay. i’m all for gay rights. i just would prefer i never knew if you were or not. which means i don’t want to see pda when i’m a the frikin rite aid. but i bet i won’t have to worry about that now. unless they are going to still shop there then i say how ironic.

  62. Pipes says:

    @INconsumer: You really think you can’t tell if someone’s gay unless they’re acting gay? Man, you do not have the gaydar. Let me paint you a picture:

    Two men, dressed stereotypically flamboyant and speaking with your stereotypical lisps. One is holding the other from behind. They’re obviously affectionate.

    And you’d think they’re straight? Now, I don’t know if these guys were stereotypical – many gay men are not. But I don’t know any straight men who hug each other from behind. And many people homophobic enough to kick someone out of their store for a hug would probably be pretty paranoid and assume the worst, not the best.

  63. itsgene says:

    “I don’t care if they are gay or straight, public displays of affection in a Rite-Aid are not appropriate.”

    Oh, boy. What a bizarro world we live in — we are actually debating whether it is APPROPRIATE for human beings to show AFFECTION. Bad is good, good is bad.

    Funny how it’s perfectly acceptable to display violent images everywhere, but people touching each other in some loving way is totally beyond the pale and we must protect our children from seeing it.

    This is why the human race is doomed.

  64. rdm24 says:

    @INconsumer: No, but it is the law that you can’t discriminate against gay pda but allow straight pda. Public acceptability is not relevant.

    And hugging has never really exceeded community thresholds for pda.

  65. rdm24 says:

    @INconsumer: Would you ban a father from hugging his son? Are they being “gay” in the store?

  66. cryrevolution says:

    @INconsumer: “Being gay”? How do you “be gay”? I’m a lesbian, but I’m as feminine as they get. You couldn’t even tell I was a big ol’ lesbo unless I told you. When I’m with my partner, I call hugging “being affectionate”, not “being gay”. Again, I reiterate, these are GROWN MEN. They were not fondling or making out in the middle of a Rite Aid. The manager was an obvious homophobe & did as homophobes do. Equating hugging between men with a grievance so bad it warrants being escorted out of the store makes you just as much of an arsehole as this manager. Besides, INconsumer, I thought you weren’t commenting on this post anymore?

  67. faust1200 says:

    Up with hugs! Down with (Dr. prescribed, FDA approved, Rite-Aid dispensed) drugs!!

  68. INconsumer says:

    @cryrevolution: i don’t know how you would be gay. that was the point of the statement. i was suggesting that there was more to the story than we knew. i’m saying that the store owner apparently saw more than he wanted to because you can’t just look at someone and tell if they are gay. besides, this post is not about me. i like the rest of the world have opinions. sorry if i’m not part of the majority, but then who would you have to argue with. all i was doing that started this whole thing was stating that the store has the right to refuse business to you if you are hugging inappropriatly. not that the manager was a great guy, just that he has rights. then it turned into me getting ganged up on for having a statement. and yes yesterday i left work, and today i’m back. sorry for wanting to see who else bashed me for my opinion, and decided to try to clear up my mis understood posts. get off your high horses people. quit worrying about my comments (especially if you see my view as ignorant) and move on.

  69. INconsumer says:

    btw, i’m part of the generation that coined the phrase “thats gay”. so my tolerance of gays might not be the same as others, but i’m a dedicated christian, i will always see homosexuality as a sin and that there is no place in heaven for them. i suppose i’ll get told that i’m stupid for being a christian next. all i’m saying is i thought this was a discussion for all, not just the people who side with the gays.

  70. cryrevolution says:

    @INconsumer: I’ll just let your last comment speak for itself.

  71. cryrevolution says:

    @INconsumer: BTW, nobody involved religion into this before you did. This is about two grown men treated unfairly for hugging. Yes, hugging. That is what the article states, after all. If they did more than that, wouldn’t the manager tell them? It was unfair treatment that is ILLEGAL in the District of Columbia. Has nothing to do with religion or christianity or heaven. See it for what it is.

  72. faust1200 says:

    @INconsumer: Wow…just wow.

  73. jesirose says:

    @INconsumer: I’m sure a dedicated Christian such as yourself will remember that the only person Jesus ever promised a place to in Heaven was a murderer. If there is no place in Heaven for homosexuals, there is no place for intolerant fools. Jesus spent most of his time with whores and outcasts, and encouraged true tolerance and love. I’m sure he hugged his male friends too. You cannot possibly be a true follower of Jesus Christ. Sorry.

  74. jesirose says:

    *place in Heaven to*

  75. Antediluvian says:

    i don’t hate gays for being gay. i’m all for gay rights. i just would prefer i never knew if you were or not.
    So you’re all for gay rights? Kinda hard to tell that from the rest of your comments.

    i suppose i’ll get told that i’m stupid for being a christian
    That’s not the reason you’ll get told you’re stupid.

    there is no place in heaven for [gays]
    Your version of heaven doesn’t sound very interesting. But that’s your problem, not mine. My problem is self-righteous followers of any faith that don’t get the idea that their right to practice their faith does not extend to denying rights to others with different faiths.

  76. Antediluvian says:

    because you can’t just look at someone and tell if they are gay
    It’s true, sometimes you can’t tell if someone is gay just by looking.

    But people often make assumptions based on appearances, actions (“behavior”), and other aspects of the person in question. This isn’t a usually a problem until the assumer acts in a manner that is discriminatory.

    For example:
    Seeing two men hug in Rite-Aid:
    Possible assumptions:
    1. probably gay
    2. long-lost friends
    3. brothers

    Possible reactions:
    1. kicking them out for “acting gay”
    2. ignoring them because they’re not doing anything inappropriate

    WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE ACTUALLY GAY, reaction 1 is wrong. Straight brothers? Still wrong to kick them out just because you’re prejudiced. And in some cases, it’s not just wrong, it’s also illegal or against company policy.

  77. Antediluvian says:

    sorry for wanting to see who else bashed me for my opinion, and decided to try to clear up my mis understood posts. get off your high horses people. quit worrying about my comments (especially if you see my view as ignorant) and move on.

    The trouble is, you’re saying I shouldn’t exist. That DOES worry me, and it worries me greatly. Too many of my gay and lesbian (and bi and trans) brothers and sisters have been injured or killed by people who think we shouldn’t exist. Saying you don’t mind gay people as long as they don’t “act gay” in public? That’s saying we shouldn’t exist.

    You make all these outrageous statements and then have the nerve to claim you’re being bashed for your comments? You’ve done practically nothing BUT criticize and put down gays in this article. In nearly all your posts, if you weren’t directly critical of gays, you were sarcastic towards another commenter.

    My tolerance ends when someone wants me to disappear.

  78. arby says:

    @INconsumer: And how do you feel about eating shellfish? That’s a sin, too. God hates shrimp! [www.godhatesshrimp.com]

  79. axiomatic says:

    (Chuckle) great thread!

    The manager of the store needs some “sensitivity training.” There was nothing wrong with this hug.

    Homosexual people are part of this world and deserve the same amount of respect as a heterosexual.

    American christianity is so broken.

  80. i suppose i’ll get told that i’m stupid for being a christian next.

    @INconsumer: Oh please, don’t try to make this about people being against your religion.

    1) There are non-Christians that are homophobic
    2) There are Christians that are tolerant of gay people
    3) Nobody’s called you stupid (other people, including Consumerist editors get called out for bad grammar and spelling and doesn’t count)
    4) Nobody’s bashed you at all

    I think the other commentors have been very kind considering you’ve told some of them they deserve to go to Hell.

  81. @Rectilinear Propagation: Ack, didn’t finish my thought:

    all i’m saying is i thought this was a discussion for all, not just the people who side with the gays.

    @INconsumer: The discussion is for everyone. That doesn’t mean that everyone is going to agree with you.

  82. RISwampyankee says:

    Inconsumer–you are a bigot. Your thoughts are bigoted, your speech is bigoted, and your actions are bigoted. You just have a problem with the label. Suck it up and embrace your inner bias, sweetie. IQ and Jesus have nothing to do your prejudice.

  83. Her Grace says:

    @Antediluvian: If we weren’t both gay, I’d probably hit on you right about now. That is, of course, assuming you’re male (and as such we are pretty guarenteed not to be interested in eachother). If this is not the case, hot damn, you’re pretty awesome.

  84. Antediluvian says:

    Thanks, I’m flattered — it’s been a while since a lesbian offered to hit on me. :-)

    Although I like to think I’m still pretty awesome, in spite of having the boy parts. :-)

  85. Elle Rayne says:

    @INconsumer: I know what you mean…I DEFINITELY do not want to know if someone is straight or not. Shivers!

  86. I think my life partner StewpidStew is cheating on me with this Michael Brown guy. He does not know that I am cheating on him with Dr. Jeecheroo.