When Frankie Nielson and his boyfriend Danny Hankes decided to share a quiet meal at the LaFiesta Azteca Restaurant in south suburban Alsip a few weeks ago, they didn't plan on making a political statement. But the restaurant owner's alleged homophobia changed that.
"We ordered drinks and an appetizer plate, and passed the time by laughing and enjoying each other's company," Hankes said in a release from the Gay Liberation Network. "After sharing a simple and socially acceptable kiss on the lips, just as any homosexual or heterosexual couple might do in any public facility in any Chicagoan suburb, we became victims of blatant and unapologetic homophobic discrimination."
The owner of LaFiesta allegedly approached the two men and told them to stop, the Chicago Tribune reports:
The couple said their rights were violated because they were not treated as a heterosexual couple would have been treated under the same circumstances.
"We sat on the same side of the booth. We kissed a few times on the lips, but it was not vulgar," said Hankes, who lives in Lemont.
Jaime Esparza, the owner of LaFiesta Azteca, denies any homophobia and told the Tribune he would ask any kissing couple to take it outside.
"They are saying I kicked them out but I didn't," Esparza told the Tribune. "I asked them, really polite, I said, 'I know you guys are in love, and you're young. It's OK. But don't do it here.'
"I said, 'You don't have to get upset. Enjoy your food, your drink also, but behave until you're done. Respect this place.'"
Hankes had a different story.
"Primarily, [Esparza] claimed that his religious beliefs and his establishment being a 'family-restaurant' prompted, and somehow justified, his actions," Hankes said. "He then told Frankie that he knows a lesbian couple that frequents his restaurant and does not kiss because 'they know it's wrong.'"
After reaching out to the Gay Liberation Network, the men decided to plan a "kiss-in" at the restaurant Friday night. The Tribune reports that 100 people are expected to enter the restaurant together and at a designated time all kiss.
"We have a law that guarantees gay people equal access to accommodations," co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network and Huffington Post blogger Andy Thayer told the Tribune. "The fact is, proprietors have no problem with differently sexed couples embracing or kissing in a nonsexual manner. Yet when Frankie and Danny did it, the manager stormed up to them and made a scene."