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Trouble in El Paso

Paul Cates,
LGBT Project
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July 13, 2009

According to recent media reports, a group of five men were kicked out of an El Paso Chico’s restaurant on June 29 after security guards spotted two of the men kissing. The security guards are alleged to have told the men that “faggot stuff” wasn’t allowed in the restaurant. Police were called to the scene by both parties, but instead of assisting the men, the responding officer reportedly threatened to cite them for “homosexual activity.” Police reportedly told the men that same-sex kissing was forbidden in public.

First, Chico’s, actually that “faggot stuff” is allowed in your restaurant. Although neither Texas nor the federal government has seen fit to enact a law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, the city of El Paso has. That means you must treat LGBT people the same way you treat everyone else.

As for the police: kissing is not a crime – not even for gay couples. While it’s true that Texas still has a law on the book barring consensual “sodomy,” that law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2003. And even by the wildest stretches of imagination, that law didn’t pertain to kissing.

The ACLU of Texas and Equality Texas are asking city officials to investigate the matter. Meanwhile, local activists staged a protest over the weekend that was attended by more than 50 people. Clearly, that can’t be good for business.

This incident is eerily similar to an instance a few months back where a gay couple and three of their friends were called “faggot” and other anti-gay slurs at a McDonald’s in Louisville, Ky. We filed a complaint under the local civil rights ordinance that resulted in an apology and a settlement from McDonalds. If Chico’s is wise, it will follow McDonald’s lead and act quickly to make amends.

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