A friendly kiss between Richelle Fitzgibbon, 29, and Kelly Holdway, 20, at the Napier one-day cricket international on Sunday, ended abruptly after a guard stopped the women. He warned the pair they were distracting the crowd and could be thrown out if they did it again.
Human Rights Commissioner Warren Lindberg said that under Section 42 of the Human Rights Act the pair had grounds to complain if they felt aggrieved. The section specified that no one could be refused access to a public place on the grounds of a discriminatory act – in this instance their apparent sexual orientation, he said.
Aids Foundation executive director Rachael Le Mesurier has called on Cricket New Zealand to review its policy, "to ensure it's not in breach of the Human Rights Act".
If the cricket association was acting out of concern for crowd control, its actions were justified – but it needed to assure people that a man and woman kissing would have been treated the same way, she said.
Cricket New Zealand marketing manager Peter Dwan said the security guard who intervened had judged that the pair were making themselves – and other women around them – "targets of unwanted male attention".
The association had no view on same-sex couples kissing "unless it was disruptive", he said.
The same stance applied to heterosexuals.
"If they (couples) stand up and carry on, it can create a crowd issue," he said.
But Pukerua Bay man Christopher Sibley, 38, said he was "horrified" by the guard's response.
"It seems like something from 1950s Alabama. I'm completely shocked it would happen in New Zealand."
Mr Sibley said he did not believe a male and female kissing would evoke the same response. He and partner Trevor Sibley-Hunter often held hands in public, but did not kiss out of concern about people's reactions.
Society had some way to go when it came to accepting men kissing, he said.
Most men spoken to by The Dominion Post were fine about two women kissing but not so sure about men. Mr Sibley believed this was because people projected themselves into such situations and the latter did not evoke an erotic response in most men.
Jet Bar operations manager Tom van de Vorstenbosch said the bar often had couples – both same-sex and heterosexual – indulging in public amorous displays. Aside from "getting it on", the bar had a liberal policy – unless it affected other people.
"We did have an incident where a group of gay guys came in and started erotic grinding."
After complaints they were asked to stop or leave, he said.