Animus in the Aisles

Gay couple claims to have been kicked out of U Street Rite Aid for ''hugging''

When Jason ”Jay” Hill finally realized what was happening, he couldn’t believe his ears.

”Get out! Get out!”

That was the order Jay, a 32-year-old resident of Silver Spring, says he and his boyfriend, Mike Browne, 29, were given by a store manager at the Rite Aid Pharmacy located at 1306 U St. NW, around 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12.

It happened while the couple was browsing the store’s shampoo aisle in search of a do-rag. And somewhere in between the manager’s voice drowning out the familiar soft rock on the store’s overhead, and attempting to buy that kerchief, Hill says, a security guard approached the couple and asked them to leave.

”He was like, ‘You guys got to get out,’ and I’m like, ‘What am I getting put out for?’” says Hill, a music student at Howard University. “The security guard couldn’t even tell me. He was like, ‘I don’t know, that’s just what the manager said. This is private property so y’all got to go.’

”I was a little bit appalled,” Hill continues. ”I figured I knew somewhat of what the reason was.”

Without an explanation, Hill is left to make assumptions, which he says led him to believe that he was kicked out for being mildly affectionate with Browne, whom he has been dating for the past six months.

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.”

Raymond Dobard, 60, a professor of art history at Howard University and a friend of the couple, who also lives in Silver Spring, had eaten dinner with Hill and Browne earlier that night at Alero Restaurant. Dobard was with them at the Rite Aid when the incident occurred.

”I was at the ATM machine,” he says. ”When I finished, I went to the back of the store and there was a security guard telling Jay and Mike that they had to leave. They walked to the front of the store and I went to the manager, and I said ‘I want to get your name,’ and he said to me, ‘Well, did I do anything wrong?’ and I said, ‘Yes, you did.”’

Denny Getachew is the manager who Hill and Dobard claim ordered Hill and Browne to leave. Getachew declined to comment on the incident, referring any queries to Rite Aid’s corporate offices in Harrisburg, Pa.

A security guard working for an independent security firm contracted by Rite Aid confirmed that he did ask Hill and Browne to leave the store, but was uncertain “why [the manager] told them to get out.” He asked that his name not be disclosed for fear of losing his job.

Though made aware of the situation, Rite Aid Pharmacy’s public-relations office did not offer comment in time for Metro Weekly deadline.

The three men involved say they are still awaiting some sort of apology or explanation, nearly two weeks after the incident occurred.

”It makes me really mad,” Dobard says. ”Here in a gay neighborhood because they were hugging — not even kissing, not stealing or anything like that, simply being human — they were asked to leave.”

Hill echoed Dobard’s comments.

”I try to challenge people who try to come at me with ignorance, and that’s why I didn’t abruptly leave…the store. People like that are totally wrong. And in that particular area, that is a gay area, it took me by surprise that [he was] discriminating on a gay issue.

”If he has views like that as a manager, who knows what he’s preaching to his employees?”

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