Hot Springs Store Owner Asks Lesbian Couple to Stop Holding Hands

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A lesbian couple claims a store owner in Hot Springs asked them to stop holding hands in his shop. 

Steve Salyers, the owner of Spa City Treasures, confirmed he did, but never asked them to leave. 

However, the two women said how could they not. 

"My reaction was, 'Excuse me?,'" said Ashley Looper. "I squeezed her hand a little bit tighter and said, 'Come on, let's go.'"

Looper and her fiance, Jessica Perkins, have been together since January. They said they've been through a lot the past seven months, people staring, pointing and talking. But this was a first.

"We weren't doing anything but trying to spend money and time together," Looper said. "We weren't being derogatory. We weren't being all handsy. Simply holding hands."

"And nobody else seemed to have a problem there at the store," Perkins added. "We weren't hugging or kissing and holding onto each other. We are more respectful of people around us."

However, Salyers still had a problem.

"I'm a family person so I want this to be a family store," Salyers said. "It's like I wouldn't want to take my kids to a strip club or something."

Salyers said he approached the couple after they shopped for about an hour. 

"They were loving on each other a lot and holding hands and they pretty much did it the whole way through the store," he said. "I just felt like they were just doing something that was inappropriate to have kids around. That's all. It would have been the same whether it had been regular people or not. I was as polite as I could and said, 'Please don't do it while you're in the store.' Didn't ask them to leave. Didn't escort them outside."

But Looper and Perkins felt they had no choice. The couple put back the items they planned to purchase and stormed out. 

"Holding someone's hand, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that," Looper said. "We're your average couple. We want to be treated that way. I'm not ashamed, she's not ashamed."

"Our families aren't ashamed," Perkins added. "We're not doing this for attention. We're just trying to let the LGBT community know that if you go in this place, you are going to be discriminated. You can't be who you are. I thought people were changing and more accepting. It hurt more than anything, like he tried to shame us."

Instead of spending their hard-earned money at Spa City Treasures, the two said they will take their business to places that are more accepting. 

"Love is love, and no one else should be able to say anything about it," Looper said. "I don't judge people for who they're with. We don't want to be judged for who we're with."

"I tried for so long to not be ashamed of who I am and it's taken a lot to get to where I am now," Perkins said. "And it's taken a lot of her help to get me where I am. She was the person that was meant for me."

Hundreds of posts from across the country are attacking Spa City Treasures on its Facebook page, calling Salyers a homophobe.

"I'm not, I'm not like that at all," he said. "I'm a Christian. They can write what they want. I have nothing against them [Looper and Perkins]. I just think they overreacted."

Salyers said some of his vendors and other customers are gay. He just doesn't want anyone holding hands.

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