A 74-year-old woman was arrested for assault at a Pride event this weekend. Her crime: kissing a preacher on the cheek.
According to the AP, Joan Parker was celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day in Salisbury, North Carolina (not pictured) on Saturday. Meanwhile, Baptist minister James Edward Belcher was protesting the event. Says Parker, "He was just waving his arms and has a Bible in one hand, up and down, and screaming at the top of his lungs, 'sodomites' and 'you're going to hell.' I thought he needed a hug. So I gave him a hug." She also gave him a kiss. Says Belcher, "If I hadn't turned my head, I'd have gotten it right on my mouth." He decided to press charges.
Police chief Rory Collins says he was surprised by Belcher's decision, but adds that the charges are legitimate: "She might disagree with this, but it wasn't done as a show of affection. It was an unwanted touching." Belcher, for his part, claims the kiss "was just one of many attempts to silence the preaching to those in need of salvation who practice a death style that they call a lifestyle." It's certainly true that men can be victims of unwanted touching, and that women can be perpetrators. Still, Parker's gesture seems so obviously harmless — and Belcher's reaction so obviously homophobic — that it's tough to sympathize with him. It's pretty clear that Belcher was disgusted by physical contact with a gay rights supporter — without this element of bigotry, it's hard to imagine that he would have found a kiss on the cheek from a 74-year-old woman threatening. And while charging Parker with assault may satisfy the letter of the law, defending someone's revulsion for those who disagree with him is hardly consistent with its spirit.