About 100 people staged a kiss-in last night to protest La Fiesta Azteca, a restaurant in suburban Chicago, where two gay men claim they were discriminated against last month simply for holding hands and kissing.
Frank Nielsen and Danny Hankes decided to leave the restaurant after the owner approached them and asked them to stop with their displays of affection. The two claim the owner then explained his reasons for asking them to stop kissing:
"Primarily, he claimed that his religious beliefs and his establishment being a 'family-restaurant' prompted, and somehow justified, his actions. He then told Frankie that he knows a lesbian couple that frequents his restaurant and does not kiss because 'they know it's wrong.'"
The Chicago Tribune reports on the incident:
"They have their opinion, and I have mine," said restaurant owner Jaime Esparza. "I don't feel like I did anything wrong when I told them to leave."
Nielsen and Hankes said they kissed while having dinner at the restaurant in the 12600 block of South Pulaski Road on May 7, then were approached by the owner and told to stop. "We kissed a few times on the lips, but it was not vulgar," said Hankes, 19, who lives in Lemont.
After being reprimanded, the couple decided to leave, Hankes said. But the owner blocked their path until they paid for their appetizers and drinks.
"The manager puffed out his chest and said, 'You're going to pay,'" Hankes said. "Frankie threw a $20 bill on the table, and we stormed out."
Esparza said he was never hostile and didn't refuse to serve the couple. He said he would ask any couple to respect his restaurant and leave the kissing outside. "They are saying I kicked them out, but I didn't," he said. "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.'"
Esparza said the couple came into the restaurant holding hands and exchanging kisses. At one point, they were kissing each other on the neck and other customers began to look uncomfortable. He said he insisted they pay for their food because they ate some of it.
"I said, 'You're going because you want to. I didn't tell you to leave, I told you to behave,'" he said. "If I would be discriminating, I would say you guys are not allowed as soon as they walk in."
Chicago's local Fox affiliate notes that "The guiding principle here is the Illinois Human Rights Act. It says if the restaurant allows anyone to kiss they have to allow everyone to kiss. If they want to have a no kissing rule, they would have to post it and enforce it equally."