Protests express opposition and therefore usually anger. Expressing love is inconsistent with anger. So if you're going to use a gesture of love for protest, you've got a special problem. Appropriating an expression of love for hostile purposes is a dangerous matter. It's what makes rape so horrible.
Think about it. Most of us love sex but if we were beset by a hostile assailant, we would prefer a punch in the face to sexual intercourse.
I'm looking at pictures from the Chick-fil-A kiss-in. These were people who wanted to demonstrate support for same-sex marriage. (I agree with them on that issue, by the way.) As their form of protest, they chose kissing — individuals of the same sex, kissing in restaurants that are associated with opposition to same-sex marriage. So the idea was, go where you think you are not loved — even though there's no evidence that Chick-fil-A treats gay customers with less respect and friendliness than straight customers — and do something you think will upset them.
Now, restaurants generally don't want anybody making out, so you've chosen behavior that would be disruptive to a restaurant's business whether the kissing couples are same or opposite sex. The form of expression is offensive and not like the old civil rights demonstrations where black people sat at lunch counters and were not served. They simply acted like customers — good customers — and the only reason it worked as a demonstration was that the store only served food to white people, the policy the protesters very successfully demonstrated was wrong. Kissing at Chick-fil-A does nothing to show what's wrong about anything Chick-fil-A is doing. It's just displaying hostility to the place.
And it's displaying hostility with kissing. So what have they done? They've perverted kissing, which should be an expression of love. Ironic, considering that the gay rights movement seeks to dispel the belief that homosexuality is perverted.
It's a challenge to protest with gestures of love. It can be done, but it can't be done with hate or love is not love. We think of hippies and their love-ins (and be-ins). I don't remember those demonstrations involving targeting any person or business. Yes, those hippies upset the squares — the straight people — and through what they claimed was love they made themselves dislikable to people they knew would be bothered by the way they acted, but that just goes to show how hard it is to use love to express something other than love.
ADDED: Here's a sign in a photograph chosen to top a favorable presentation of the kiss-in: "We're Here/We're Queer/& We're Not Eating." See how different that is from the old lunch-counter sit-ins? These 2 men are flaunting their taking up space in a commercial establishment without being customers. They are kissing as a way of saying: We're hostile to you.
The second sign says "I [heart] my boyfriend just as much as you love your spouse!," but the man is failing to demonstrate the equivalence between him and his boyfriend and "you" and your spouse because unlike the black sit-in protesters, they are not behaving like the people they want to say they are equal to.
The civil rights sitters-in behaved like ordinary customers, causing the store to behave in a way that onlookers could see was ugly. But since a straight couple doesn't go to a restaurant and stand around kissing without buying anything, the 2 men are not demonstrating sameness, but difference. An onlooker's reaction could be: No, you are not like me and my spouse because we only go to restaurants to buy food, and when we do, we treat everyone around us with respect, and when we kiss we do it in an appropriate setting and only to express love. Again, I see a terrible irony: They've sent the message of perverted love.
IN THE COMMENTS: As my whimsy leads me reminds us: "Judas perverted kissing when he betrayed Jesus."
I was thinking about Jesus when I wrote this post. Not in the context of Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss, but Jesus telling us to love our enemy. If someone strikes you on the face, instead of striking back, turn the other cheek, an invitation to the assailant to strike you a second time. That's how much love Jesus expects from you. That's a demonstration of love to the onlooker, who receives the message, the kind of demonstration that was made — to brilliant effect — in the civil rights era.