Main | Thursday, July 09, 2009

Texas: Kicked Out For A Kiss

A group of gay men were thrown out of an El Paso, Texas restaurant last week after a security guard objected to a kiss between two of the men. The cops were summoned and the ejected men were stunned when police told them they were liable for a citation as homosexual activity was illegal in Texas.
At about 12:30 a.m. on the morning of June 29, the five men were placing their order at the Chico's Tacos on Montwood when the two men made their public display of affection, sparking the ire of two contracted security guards at the restaurant, police and witnesses said. After the group sat down, the security guards told them "they didn't allow that faggot stuff to go on there," and made them leave, de Leon said. An officer arrived at the restaurant about an hour later, after police received five calls, including from the security guards and de Leon. The men were told to leave the restaurant and had anti-gay slurs directed at them while they waited for the police.

"I went up to the police officer to tell him what was going on and he didn't want to hear my side," de Leon said. "He wanted to hear the security guard's side first." The officer informed the group it was illegal for two men or two women to kiss in public, de Leon said. The five were told they could be cited for homosexual conduct - a charge the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. That same year, the city of El Paso passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by employees of the city and by businesses open to the public. El Paso Police Detective Carlos Carrillo said a more appropriate charge would probably be criminal trespass. "The security guard received a complaint from some of the customers there," Carrillo said. "Every business has the right to refuse service. They have the right to refuse service to whoever they don't want there. That's their prerogative."
The ACLU and a local civil rights group point out that if lewd behavior was the restaurant's complaint, that standard must apply equally to straight and gay patrons by El Paso law. Clearly the El Paso police are not up to speed and the gay men have grounds for a lawsuit.

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