Liberal, progressive, and welcoming they may be, but apparently even Seattle has its limits.

As is usually the case, there are competing sides. The mean-spirited public authorities maintain that:

[T]heir seating staff had acted appropriately, and the couple was approached because of their behavior – which included „making out“ and „groping“ in the stands – and not their sexual orientation. „We have a strict nondiscrimination policy at the Seattle Mariners and at Safeco Field, and when we do enforce the code of conduct it is based on behavior, not on the identity of those involved,“ Mariners spokeswoman Rebecca Hale said earlier this week. In the release, the Mariners said the women were told they could continue to kiss, but that they had to „tone it down.“

„The women refused to modify their behavior, began swearing at the seating hosts and complained that they were being singled out for their sexual orientation,“ the club said.

The code of conduct – announced before each game – specifically mentions public displays of affection that are „not appropriate in a public, family setting.“ Hale said those standards are based on what a „reasonable person“ would find inappropriate.

Meanwhile the ball-crossed lovers aver:

Guerrero denied she and her date were groping each other, saying that along with eating garlic fries, they were giving each other brief kisses.

The usher, Guerrero said, told them he had received a complaint from a woman nearby who said that there were kids in the crowd of nearly 36,000 and that parents would have to explain why two women were kissing.

So who’s right? Is this just another case of jack-booted establishment thugs coming down on the Sapphic Sisterhood? Or is it another case of people showing no concern for others while whining that we all avert our eyes from their grossly inappropriate public behavior?

Or is it something else: a simple failure to communicate. Perhaps this is one of those stories where both sides are “right” in that both are telling the truth from their perspective. What seem like “innocent kisses” to the involved parties might well seem like “making out” to some watching. Which is why we should err on the side of restraint in public displays of affection—especially at “family events” like ball games.

The same may be true about the couple’s response: they saw themselves politely disagreeing with the stadium official, and he saw them as belligerent and uncooperative.

In other words, perhaps this is just another situation where officials need to be polite and sympathetic but firm, citizens need to be willing to overlook minor momentary infringements of their rights, and—most of all—both sides need to get over themselves.

As for what should be appropriate in public, let me throw this out for debate and discussion:

Public behavior should be PG, PG-13 at the worst. And if you’re around lots of young children (near an elementary school trip, etc.) I would say that G should really be the idea. Generally, however, PG. So a brief kiss or hug, or hand-holding is fine, but heavy petting is really right out…

The point is that people do have a right not to be offended needlessly in public places. That right’s not absolute, and it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to trump basic human rights, but it does trump unnecessary voluntary behavior. If you want to engage in risque behavior, go to a venue set aside for that: there are many.

(Hah, now that should start a discussion!)