Exclusive: Lesbian couple ‘degraded’ by Tesco employee who told them ‘this is not what God created’
A lesbian couple say they were subject to homophobic abuse by a Tesco checkout operator who told them they shouldn’t be married because “this is not what God created.”
Faye and Leanne Leaver told PinkNews that they popped into the Stockport Tesco Express last week to get some groceries – before being confronted with homophobic abuse from a part-time minister on the till.
The checkout operator, who they said was called Maxwell, told Faye: “‘You need a bag, as your husband wouldn’t want you to carry all this.”
“My wife just said: ‘It’s OK, my wife is here – she can help.’
“He then stopped serving us to then questioned us about being wife and wife. Maxwell persistently asked: ‘What do you mean? How do you get wife and wife?’
“This made me very uncomfortable, as I could sense he had an issue,” said Faye, 29.
Matters only got worse from there, she said.
“He relentlessly told us how this was wrong, we shouldn’t be wife and wife and this is not what God created.
“Maxwell then stopped again to look me straight in the face. Dismissing the fact my wife was stood next to me, he lectured me on how I needed a husband.”
She said that the employee told her how a heterosexual marriage “was God’s way and the way to procreate.”
Faye added: “My wife then informed him that we have a child.”
This only led to more invasive questions, she said, before Maxwell went back to telling Faye how she needed a husband.
“I felt harassed and degraded by these comments and the attention they drew,” Faye said.
Leanne was allegedly being treated by Maxwell as if she was invisible, so she “walked away, in obvious despair.”
But despite Leanne leaving in distress, she said Maxwell “notified me that it wasn’t my fault, because I didn’t pray for this.”
The pair, who are both retail store managers, told PinkNews that they “don’t want to go to Tesco anymore” following the incident.
Leanne, 34, said: “I felt like I’d just been verbally attacked.”
She added: “It was one of those moments where you wanted the world to swallow you up and you just disappear.”
“I went very quiet and I felt very embarrassed by the whole situation. I felt so under pressure. I felt like everyone around was judging us,” said Faye.
She said the other shoppers in the queue did nothing except observe.
“Nobody said anything. You could hear people chatting, but then as the conversation was progressing, you just heard everyone around go silent,” she said.
The couple added that they felt like they were on What Would You Do? – but without the relief of host John Quiñones coming out to tell them it was just a TV show.
“I was totally shocked,” Faye said. “It was appalling.”
A Tesco spokesperson told PinkNews: “Everyone is welcome at Tesco and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
“We launched an immediate investigation into this incident and will take the appropriate action.”
But though Tesco told them it would keep them informed, Faye said: “We haven’t heard anything since the day after. It’s been five days.”
And the couple generally thought Tesco had not treated their complaint as it should have, saying: “We felt like the management didn’t take it seriously – they didn’t even take our details.”
They even accused the manager of the store, Dave, of justifying the attack and reasoning that it was down to Maxwell’s beliefs.
“We explained what had happened, and how it was appalling what he’d said,” they recalled.
The manager allegedly responded by telling them that Maxwell was a minister outside of work.
“We appreciate that he has his beliefs, but he can’t preach at Tesco. Tesco isn’t a place of worship,” said Leanne.
“We felt that Dave was just trying to brush it off, and it was all justifiable because Maxwell was a minister.”
It took Faye writing a public post on Facebook and having it shared more than 200 times to spur the company into action, they said.
Faye told PinkNews: “I think it was taken seriously because of all the shares.”
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