Updated February 12, 2006 Compiled & written by Mike Fitzpatrick
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Three Gay Couples In Madison "Kiss Off" Contest
Madison - At least three same-sex couples participated in a local radio station's controversial kissing contest here February 11. Quest has learned that Laura Gutknecht, co-host of the LGBT talk show "Forward Forum " informed listeners on air Saturday that she was able to see three gay couples participating in the "Connie & Fish's 2nd Annual Kiss Off!" contest being held outside of her studio. Gutknecht's station 92.1 The Mic: Madison's Progressive Talk shares office space with Z104, the top 40 radio station sponoring the kissing contest.
LGBT activists had cried foul last week when they learned the contest rules prohibited same-sex couples from qualifying for the contest, originally scheduled to be held at the West Towne Mall in front of the Boston Store. According to UW-Madison Women's Center Publicity Coordinator Stephanie Halfmann, mall managers insisted on the "straight-only" criterion.
Initially the rules for “Kiss Off” had stipulated that contestants be of the opposite sex. Bowing to public pressure from the city’s gay community initiated by the campus center and veteran activist Charles Squires, the station posted new rules on its website February 9 with no reference to the gender of the participants. The contest also was moved from the mall site to in front of the radio station's building.
West Towne general manager Paul Matyas would not comment on the record to Captial Times reporter Samara Kalk Derby as to whether the mall insisted on restricting the contest to opposite-sex couples. “It a sensitive issue,” Matyas said. “West Towne is a place of commerce, open to everyone. The station decided to move the event on its own.”
At least part of the reason for the station's change of heart over it's Valentine's Day stunt was the character of the complaints from the LGBT community that station management characterized as "concerned but polite." However, Women's Center staff told Quest reporter Dan Ross that they had received several nasty calls from those supporting the gay exclusion from the contest.
The kissing contest was a marathon event in which contestant couples began kissing and held the kiss until only one pair remain lip locked. If more than one couple remained actively kissing after eleven hours, the winner was to be chosen by a drawing. The contest’s grand prize was a three night trip to Jamaica. A $500 wardrobe had been part of the prize package until the mall's pull out. Each participating couple also received a certificate for a heart-shaped pizza. To qualify for the contest couples had to be the 14th caller when prompted by a promotional ad broadcast throughout the day.
A hetereosexual couple won the contest after a nine hour kiss. WISC-TV reported one of the same-sex couples was a woman kissing her best friend after her husband balked at taking part at the last minute. Equal rights activist are also considering following up on the mall's actions, as they may have violated Wisconsin's equal rights law. Quest will continue to report further developments as they arise.
Quest's Madison reporter Dan Ross contributed to this report.