Saturday, March 17, 2007

Life in Missouri


Pam's House Blend is not a site I've visited before. Until a friend directed me to this story about two lesbians being kicked out of an IHOP restaurant in Grandview, Missouri, because some customers were offended that the two women kissed.

Just so you know, Grandview is not out in the "back end of beyond." It's in suburban Kansas City. Where some of us think surely this stuff just does not happen anymore.

The story begins:

A group of lesbians hanging out at the International House of Pancakes in Grandview said they got thrown out of the restaurant because they're gay.

The women said they met up at IHOP Friday night around dinner time. When one of the women's partners showed up, they greeted each other with a kiss. They said there was another kiss on the cheek later, but they said it was nothing outrageous. The restaurant's general manager said he got a complaint and asked the women to leave.

..."He said it's just that we've had complaints and it's unacceptable and as a family restaurant we don't accept that and don't accept you and she said maybe we should go," Jackie Smith said. "He said I'm going to have to ask you to leave and not return."

The site has more details and links to coverage provided by a local television station and the Kansas City Star.

From all accounts, these women were not behaving in the outrageous way that makes some of us (whether gay or straight) want to suggest, "Get a room!" They apparently kissed just exactly like we all see heterosexuals behaving every day in virtually every public place in these freedom-loving United States of America.

Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks picked up the story and points out more about life in Missouri for gay people:

These days it’s rare for gays and lesbians to be denied service in restaurants for acting like who they are. . . . However, incidents like this one are not unheard of, and the people affected often can do nothing about it.

There is no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Neither Kansas nor Missouri are among the few states that protect gay people from being discriminated against in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

Kansas City does have an ordinance protecting gays, as do St. Louis, Columbia and University City. But if you’re anywhere else in Missouri and you’re gay, you can legally be denied service in restaurant. Landlords can refuse to rent you a place to live.

You can even be canned from your job on the suspicion that you’re romantically inclined toward members of your own sex.

“Many people are shocked to hear that people can be fired from their jobs for being gay or being perceived to be gay,” says Julie Brueggemann, executive director of the Missouri gay rights group Promo.

That would change if bills pending in Kansas and Missouri would ever pass. It’s only the first year for Senate Bill 163 in Kansas. But the so-called Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, House Bill 819, has been up time and again.

And as in past years, it has almost zero chance in Jefferson City, says Rep. Jeneé Lowe, a Kansas City Democrat, the bill’s sponsor.

There's just one silver lining here. They were merely told to leave a public place. If Akinola had his way, they'd be in jail, facing a five-year prison term.

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