Kiss-in staged at London bar that tossed a gay couple for kissing

More than 800 protesters staged a “kiss-in” outside a London pub where two gay men say they were thrown out for a casual kiss. The protest was originally set to take place inside the John Snow pub, but the bar’s management closed early to avoid it.

The kiss-in is latest development in a story that has made gay Londoners Jonathan Williams and James Bull an international Twitter sensation.

The couple says they were asked to leave for “obscenity” after sharing what they described as a “hands-on-the-table” kiss at the bar in London’s gay-friendly Soho neighborhood. Anger snowballed after Williams tweeted about the incident late April 13, and within 24 hours, the story was on the front page of Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the pair were describing their ordeal on national radio.

The John Snow’s owners told the Associated Press they had no comment on the controversy.

The kiss-in was organized by a 50-year-old manager named Paul Shetler, who said he first heard about the incident through Twitter. Shetler, who is originally from New York, said the incident “struck me as the kind of thing I would see in a small town in the States, not in the capital of the U.K.”

But gay advocates said those kinds of snubs weren’t uncommon, even in cosmopolitan areas such as Soho.

“You would be surprised,” said Gary Nunn, of U.K. gay lobbying group Stonewall.

Attitudes toward homosexuality are generally relaxed in Britain, where civil partnerships are accorded the same legal standing as marriages and politicians of all stripes eagerly emphasize their gay-friendly credentials.

But controversies over homosexuality still creep into the news. Recently, a Christian couple was fined for refusing to allow a gay couple the use of a double room at their hotel in southern England, a case that drew national attention.

More dramatically, a gay man was stamped and kicked to death on Trafalgar Square in 2009 – a brutal hate crime that shocked the city.

“If that can happen in Trafalgar Square, meters from Soho, on a Saturday night then this sort of thing can happen anywhere,” Nunn said.

Neither Williams nor Bull returned requests for comment, but in a series of messages posted to the Web, Williams expressed wonder at the speed with which the gay community had rallied to his defense.

April 13 “was my first ‘The Power of Twitter’ moment,” he wrote. “Thank you very much everyone.”

As to whether they’d be seeing each other again, Bull assured his Twitter followers that the two had “already arranged a second date before we even got to the pub!”