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An Antigay
Incident at Disneyland?

An Antigay
Incident at Disneyland?


The Walt Disney Co. is issuing a formal apology to a San Diego man for an incident at Disneyland that the company claims was a misunderstanding but which the man asserts was antigay bias.

The Walt Disney Co. is issuing a formal apology to a San Diego man for an incident at Disneyland that the company claims was a misunderstanding but which the man asserts was antigay bias.

Wil Kenney claims he was targeted and harassed by Disneyland security -- as well as roughed up by Anaheim, Calif., police -- because a Disney staff member overreacted to Kenney's holding another man's hand.

According to Kenney, he and his partner -- along with two other same-sex couples and their children -- were walking through the theme park's Downtown Disney area on Saturday when Disney security detained them. Security claimed Kenney had threatened someone with a gun, which Kenney denied. Anaheim officers were called to the scene and, according to Kenney, forced him face-first into a wall and then frisked, searched, and interrogated him in front of hundreds of Disney guests. According to Kenney, officers left the scene after finding no weapons on anyone in his party. Kenney says he may have been targeted by police because a Disney employee grew nervous seeing Kenney holding hands with his partner, which he believes then led to the chain reaction of events.

Rob Doughty, vice president of communications for Disneyland, says the whole incident was a misunderstanding that had nothing to do with Kenney's sexuality. Doughty claims Kenney made a hand gesture that a Disney crew member interpreted as threatening. Doughty says security came over and detained Kenney and his group, who grew angry, and that police were then called to the scene. "He made his hand look like a gun," Doughty says. "Someone interpreted that as a gun."

One of Kenney's friends at Disneyland was Brian van de Mark, the owner of a communications and marketing firm that focuses on social justice issues. Van de Mark is serving as Kenney's media representative, and he says there was no threatening hand gesture. Van de Mark says that after the police left the scene, Kenney and his group demanded a meeting with Disney security manager Deana Van Noy. At that meeting, according to Van de Mark, Van Noy told the group that she "could not remember whether the cast member [who contacted Disney security] said she was threatened, felt threatened, or was offended," and that she then added, "It doesn't make a difference anyway."

Doughty could not confirm that Van Noy used those words. Doughty, who is head of Disney's employee gay group, says Disney staff were not even aware Kenney was gay until two hours after the incident.

"Our policy is, everyone is welcome," Doughty says. "If a same-sex couple wants to hold hands at our park, that's fine."

Doughty says the apology was being issued for the misunderstanding over the hand gesture and denies that a homophobic employee started the whole scuffle. "I can assure you, this is a company that would not tolerate that behavior from a cast member," he says. "We're a very welcoming company."

But Van de Mark claims that Van Noy refused to apologize to the group, and that after the meeting plainclothes Disney security followed them around the park. According to Van de Mark, the group patronized a Disney store, where a Disney employee asked how their day was. When they answered that it had not gone well because they had been harassed by security personnel, Van de Mark said the crew member told them, "Well, in fact, you're still being followed," and pointed to plainclothes security officers in their midst.

When reached for comment, Anaheim police sergeant Rick Martinez also denied the incident had anything to do with the guests being gay. When asked whether Kenney was pushed against a wall and frisked, Martinez said, "I would define it as 'detained.' [Kenney and his group] might have been frisked." (The Advocate)

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