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This Gay Couple Was Told Not To Hug On "Gay Day" At An Amusement Park

"It’s just flat-out homophobia."

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This gay Toronto couple say an amusement park employee told them to stop hugging because they were at a "family" establishment.

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Brandon Hamilton and Barrett Morrison told BuzzFeed Canada they visited Canada's Wonderland in mid-June, on what is known as Gay Day, an annual event organized by PFLAG Canada to promote LGBTQ issues and visibility.

While waiting to get into the waterpark, the young staff member told them someone had complained about them hugging.

Morrison couldn't believe they were being admonished. "We were waiting in line, and we were affectionate. Because we’re a couple and that’s what couples do," he said.

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They told the employee the complaint itself was offensive, and that Canadian law protects from from discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

“We don’t necessarily blame the kid who approached us," Hamilton said. "I think he was just relaying a message [from a woman in line] and didn’t think about what he was saying.”

The employee agreed and immediately apologized, they said, but they were frustrated that park staff weren’t better trained to handle such situations.

“It’s so offensive and absurd that anyone would consider that not family friendly. It’s just flat-out homophobia,” Morrison said.

Hamilton and Morrison later complained to Canada's Wonderland. In addition to calling for staff to get better nondiscrimination training, they asked management to consider making Gay Day an official event with a parkwide presence.

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“The only visible thing we could see of Gay Day was the fact there was a PFLAG booth out front, in front of the entrance to the park,” Barrett told BuzzFeed Canada.

Norm Pirtovshek, the park's general manager, apologized to the couple but said staff already received "extensive training" on avoiding discrimination. He also didn't commit to expanding Gay Day, saying the park had to treat all groups equally.

Although they appreciated the quick apology, Hamilton and Morrison said the response felt "dismissive" of their concerns.

The couple said they waited several weeks for Canada's Wonderland to act on their concerns, but after not hearing back, they decided to go public with their story. “We would love to see Wonderland embrace Gay Day as a parkwide event. That would be wonderful," Morrison said.

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A park spokesperson said there are no plans to do so, though.

"We partner with more than 5,000 groups, communities and companies each season and therefore don’t designate a day to any given group," Soulla Lindo told BuzzFeed Canada. "But we’ve enjoyed our partnership with PFLAG in hosting this annual event and we hope they will return again in 2017."

PFLAG Canada, however, accused Canada's Wonderland of not being "interested in mending this relationship, and ensuring a safe environment" for LGBTQ visitors.

President Bev Belanger told BuzzFeed Canada that her organization's board "has decided to cancel future Gay Days at Canada’s Wonderland."

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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