Honolulu will compensate a lesbian couple who were arrested for kissing inside of a Foodland grocery store on Oahu’s North Shore, agreeing to pay them $80,000 to settle a lawsuit. The lesbian couple, who are no longer together, have said that after paying legal fees, including paying their attorneys, they will split whatever is left, according to Fox News.
The exact details of the settlement were announced in federal court there on Friday. The settlement, which comes seven months after the lawsuit was originally filed, according to Hawaii News Now, still requires the approval of the City Council. Honolulu Deputy Corporation Counsel Nicolette Winter indicated that the City Council will likely consider the settlement when they meet on July 6.
In a statement, reportedly reflecting the viewpoint of the Department of the Corporation Counsel, Corporation Counsel Donna Leong said, “The tentative settlement is in the best interests of the city.”
According to Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero, while they were in Honolulu last year, visiting Hawaii from Los Angeles, a police officer did not like their public displays of affection when they were inside the Foodland grocery store, and he harassed and finally arrested them. Officer Bobby Harrison, shopping while in uniform at the store, saw the couple holding hands and then kissing each other. The officer reportedly asked the plaintiffs to stop kissing and “take it somewhere else,” according to the lawsuit.
The women said that they “complied” with the officer’s request. They continued to shop, but later on, kissed each other again. The officer saw them kiss, and he allegedly said they would be thrown out of the store if they kept on with the same sort of behavior.
While in the check-out line, the lawsuit alleges that Harrison grabbed Wilson’s wrist. She began calling 911, the women said last year, when the incident occurred. The two women “got into a scuffle” with Harrison, and he arrested them. Though the charges were eventually dismissed, the two women were charged with felony assault on an officer. They spent three days in jail, as a result.
According to CBS News, prosecutors decided to drop the charges “after grocery store surveillance videos disappeared.” By phone, Wilson told CBS affiliate KGMB in Honolulu that the couple had not really been thinking about getting compensated by being awarded any money. They wanted to be compensated, instead, by Officer Harrison suffering “some sort of repercussions for his actions.” That did not end up happening because two months after the lawsuit was filed, Harrison retired, after serving on the force for 26 years.
After the lawsuit was filed, an internal investigation was conducted by the Honolulu Police Department. The conclusion that the investigation reached was that “the allegations were not sustained,” according to Michelle Yu, a spokeswoman for the department, in an email. She said that police officer Harrison had retired from the department at the end of 2015.
Wilson returned to Los Angeles but Guerrero remained in Honolulu, where she now lives and works. She said that a condition of their release from jail was that they stayed in Honolulu; however, she was not still required to stay there once the charges had been dismissed.
Wilson said that she was “glad it’s over,” but added that they had still “wanted the officer to suffer some sort of repercussion.” She added that, though she and Guerrero are no longer a couple, they still remain friends.
A lesbian couple hopes their story will be an inspiration to others. The city of Honolulu will compensate them for having been arrested after they kissed inside a grocery store. In exchange for the settlement that the lesbian couple made with the city of Honolulu for $80,000 “all claims against the city and officer Bobby Harrison were dismissed,” according to Hawaii News Now. Wilson said in a phone interview that she hoped their case will serve as an inspiration to others “to stand up for the civil rights that we have and to not tolerate bigotry behavior like that because it’s not acceptable.” For more CDA News, follow our tweets on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
By John Samuels