Group says restaurant discriminated against kissing lesbians

by Steve Brisendine
Saturday Mar 24, 2007
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KANSAS CITY, Missouri - A gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group planned a protest Friday near a restaurant they say ejected four women because two of them kissed.

"It was a casual kiss,’’ said Eva Sandoval, who said the group was approached after she briefly kissed her girlfriend, Blair Funk. "It was the sort of kiss I would give my grandfather.’’

But IHOP Corp. said the kissing was more extensive and that the manager only asked the women to tone things down.

Sandoval, 23, said the manager told them there had been complaints about public displays of affection at the women’s table.

"He said, ’Don’t look at me, stupid, like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You know you were back there French-kissing at the table,’’’ Sandoval said, reading from a prepared statement at a news conference. "We didn’t know what he was talking about because we hadn’t been.’’

The women said they were told to leave and not come back.

They said they wanted a public apology and wanted the manager to be fired, although they later said sensitivity training would be an acceptable alternative.

The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group PROMO also planned a protest.

IHOP said the manager had undergone sensitivity training before the incident and said its restaurants do not treat people differently based on sexual orientation. There is no Missouri or U.S. law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation by restaurants and other establishments.

"We’re welcoming to all. That’s how we built our business for 50 years,’’ IHOP spokesman Patrick Lenow said. "What’s not welcome at our restaurants are bold displays of affection, with open-mouth kissing and caressing. That’s really not welcome at any restaurants.’’

Lenow said the women, who had been going to the restaurant for several years, had been asked before not to do such things as "exposing bare skin and lying down in booths with their heads resting on other guests’ laps.’’

"What we’re troubled by is that a guest-service issue has turned into seemingly so much more,’’ Lenow said.

The three women who spoke at the news conference said the prior incidents Lenow mentioned never happened. They did say they had kissed numerous times and had not been confronted about it.

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