April 25, 2008— -- Two years ago, ABC News hired two actors, a man and a woman, to publicly display their affection for each other by kissing in public at a restaurant. Reactions from other restaurant-goers varied; some onlookers enjoyed the sight of young love, while others lost their appetite.
This year, we once again decided to explore how the public responds to public displays of affection -- but this time, our couples were gay.
ABC News asked two couples, Kaolin and James, and Ashby and Leslie, to sit on park benches in Verona, N.J., and then in Birmingham, Ala., to see if there were any differences in reaction among passersby in the two regions of the country. Although all four individuals were actors, showing their love and affection for each other was far from acting. Kaolin and James have been in a committed relationship for two years, while Ashby and Leslie are a married couple who have been together for eight years.
"When I see a gay couple, if they want to kiss or whatever, I really don't mind as long as they're happy," Chris, a Verona resident, told ABC News. Interestingly, feelings about PDA (public displays of affection) varied if individuals observed the female couple kissing as opposed to the male couple.
Naomi Goldman from New Jersey noticed Ashby and Leslie kissing while seated on the park bench and told ABC News, "I'm in support of displaying public affection. I think [it's] great. Spread more love in the world." When asked if she would maintain the same opinion if she saw our male couple being affectionate, she sang a slightly different tune.
"I think if I saw two males doing the same thing, I might have a slightly different reaction. I might not think it was as cute or charming." It seems that people who were strolling through Verona Park during the filming of the social experiment were either indifferent to, in support of, or slightly bothered by the PDA they witnessed. There were no extreme reactions. A topic that did come up repeatedly was children.