Gay couple alleges discrimination at Layton pool, city officials offer conflicting story

Posted at 9:24 PM, Jul 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-27 16:24:43-04

LAYTON, Utah -- There is a long list of rules that greets swimmers at the Layton Surf and Swim, but guests Vanessa Higgs and Shandra Adams weren’t aware they were breaking any during their visit on Thursday.

“I wasn’t even there an hour before I got asked to leave,” Adams said.

According to the couple, they were planning on spending the afternoon at the pool when their visit was suddenly cut short by a lifeguard on duty.

“We were just having fun, playing around in the pool, and then all of a sudden she blew her whistle and told us, “No PDA,’” Higgs said.

While the pool does have an unwritten rule prohibiting public displays of affection (PDA), the couple believes the guard was not upset about what they were doing, but about who they were.

“She’s like, ‘You need to leave because you’re gay,’” Adams said. “That was it, word for word.”

According to Higgs, the conversation was had in front of everyone at the pool.

“It was rude, it was embarrassing,” Higgs said. “She called it out in front of everybody. She could have gone about it in a different way.”

However, the city contends the lifeguard acted entirely differently.

“We absolutely disagree with that," City Spokesman Steve Garside said. "They were not asked to leave. They were just reminded, again, that this is a family facility."

According to Garside, the pool’s PDA policy applies to everyone, not just the couple, and the girls’ actions were in violation of it.

“My understanding is that they actually had their legs wrapped around each other, and they were kissing passionately in the pool,” Garside said.

He contends their lifeguard merely followed protocol, but never kicked the couple out for being gay.

“It is absolutely not true," Garside said. "This is an instance that is not uncommon; as we see couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, sometime get involved in a public display of affection, and our lifeguard was responding in an appropriate way.”

However, the girls maintain they were punished not for breaking any rules, but for violating someone’s personal beliefs.

“It’s their word against ours," Adams said. "But we know what happened. And if this didn’t happen, we wouldn’t be so hurt by it. Because it does hurt, it hurts bad. And they don’t care.”