At 12:30 AM on June 29th, a group of gay men were kicked out of Chico’s Tacos in El Paso, Texas, because two of them were kissing.
“It was a simple kiss on the lips,” said Carlos Diaz de Leon, who called police when he feared he and his group were targets of discrimination after his friends, both men, kissed in public.
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.
While waiting for the police to arrive, the group of men were the target of anti-gay slurs and when a police officer finally did get there, he only wanted to hear the security guards’ version of the story. The police officer informed de Leon and his group that it was illegal for two members of the same sex to kiss in public and that they could be cited for homosexual conduct.
This is utter homophobic bullshit – The Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 that “homosexual conduct” is an unconstitutional charge. That same year, El Paso passed an ordinance that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation by city employees and businesses open to the public.
Furthermore if a heterosexual couple had kissed in the restaurant, nothing would have happened. No one would have gotten kicked out of the restaurant, no one would’ve been the target of discriminatory slurs, no one would’ve been told that their behavior was illegal. Homosexuality is constantly victimized, criminalized and policed. It is unfair and unjust for the gay community to be continually marginalized in spaces that they participate in and help support – Chico’s Tacos profited off the business of gay men yet refused to simply let them be and express their love.
The security guards’ usage of the word “faggot” is a form of hate speech. Hate speech is deplorable and should not be tolerated. Although some will say that words are just words, the language we use is very important and reflects our values. Hate speech like using the word “faggot” creates a context in which homophobia and violence against the gay community is permissible. Language helps to construct reality which is why it is very important to be conscious of the words we choose.
What Chico’s Tacos did to de Leon and his group is abominable and bears witness to the ongoing struggles of the LGBTQ community. There is no equality or justice if the gay community cannot even exist in or navigate public spaces safely and freely.