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A gay man in Arkansas believes he was the victim of discrimination after he was briefly denied entry to a local casino after security guards objected to a purse he was carrying last week.
Jordan Kirk, of Bryant, Ark., claims that casino staff told him only women could carry purses into the building, and that “men do not carry purses.”
Kirk was on a date night with his husband, Justin, and planned to go to Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in in Hot Springs. But when they arrived at the casino, Kirk was told he couldn’t enter because the Louis Vuitton purse was too large.
In a Facebook post complaining about the incident, Kirk claims security told him he could put his wallet in his pocket but would have to return the purse to the car if he wanted to enter.
Kirk and security then engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth argument over his “bag,” with Kirk arguing that women were allowed to carry purses on their person, with many of that night’s customers carrying much larger purses and even some backpacks. But security alleged that Kirk didn’t need to bring his purse, because he wasn’t a female.
“I asked the floor supervisor, ‘If I had vagina, would you have a problem with me carrying a purse?’ He told me if I was a woman, I could carry a purse inside Oaklawn onto the Casino Floor,” wrote Kirk.
“What is the difference between a man carrying a man purse (murse) and a woman carrying a purse? Is it any of your business? NOPE!”
Kirk then spoke to the casino’s general manager, who said that Kirk could carry the purse if he allowed it to be searched. He claims guards expressed concern that a man carrying a “bag” might be carrying explosives and denounced the “discrimination, sexism and bigotry” he had suffered during the incident for failing to conform to gender stereotypes as a man with a purse.
He ended the post with: “I don’t even know where to get explosives!! and who is going to blow up their Louis Vuitton on purpose?”
Oaklawn Media Relations Manager Jennifer Hoyt released a statement on behalf of the casino questioning some of Kirk’s allegations, telling The Sentinel-Record in an email: “As you will see in our statement, we want to make it very clear that Jordan Kirk was allowed to enter with his bag unlike what he has posted on his social media pages.”
“First and foremost, anyone and everyone over the age of 21 are welcome at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort as long as they adhere to our security requests and guidelines, as well as our COVID-19 precautions and have a valid ID. Safety is and always has been one of our top priorities at Oaklawn — for both our guests and our team members,” the statement reads.
“In keeping with our policy and commitment to provide the highest level of safety precautions, our personnel reserve the right to inspect incoming bags, backpacks, satchels, etc. regardless of form or size. It is essential we reserve this right in light of Oaklawn being a large public venue.
“As an important point of clarification, the General Manager of Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort was not present during this incident, but our regularly scheduled security team and casino floor manager were there and did permit Mr. Kirk to enter the facility with his bag where Mr. Kirk stayed for almost an hour.”
Kirk later claimed on his Facebook page that he received an apology from Vice President of Marketing Joan Botts via Facebook Messenger.
According to Kirk, Botts wrote: “On behalf of Oaklawn, I’d like to apologize for the (in)convenience last night. The situation has been addressed with our team members. Thank you.”
“Do I feel sliding into by DM’s by one of your marketing directors is cowardly? Absolutely! Nor does a marketing director’s apology have much significance,” Kirk wrote. “I guess it’s the best I can get at this time.”
He added that he does not support a planned protest by community members at the casino that was organized after his story was shared locally.
“I do not wish harm or destruction of [Oaklawn’s] property, they have discriminated against myself and others in the past and I simply wish they could own up to their mistakes and make a policy change that is fair to everyone regardless of race, color, religion, sex, or nation origin.”
He later told The Sentinel-Record that he’s never had an issue in the past when he’s gone to Oaklawn carrying a purse, describing the initial denial as “hurtful.”
“If you want to search (my purse) to make sure it’s not something that’s in the facility, that’s fine, I’m not carrying anything I shouldn’t (and) I have no problem with you asking to search it before I go in, like feel free,” he said. “But telling me that I can’t, like I can just put my stuff in my pockets, like why can’t a woman just put her stuff in her pockets? That’s just not right. It needs to be fair all the way across the board.”
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