PITTSBURG, Texas (KRLD) — A couple says they were told not to come back to a restaurant in East Texas because they’re gay.
In the town of Pittsburg, Texas, Big Earl’s Bait House and Country Store is an institution. So Collin Dewberry and his partner Kelley decided to have breakfast there. He says everything seemed to be going fine until they paid their check and were approached by their waitress on the way out.
“After I paid, her countenance seemed to change drastically,” said Dewberry.
Big Earl Cheney, the owner, explains what happened next.
“She told them the rules are on the door and it says ‘Welcome to Big Earl’s where men act like men, women act like ladies, no saggy pants and we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.'”
“And so I laughed and I asked what do you mean?” says Dewberry. “And that’s when she said to us… ‘to put it plainly, we don’t serve fags here.'”
The waitress happens to be Cheney’s daughter, and the owner says her choice of words were her own.
“I don’t think I should have to discipline her. I think the parents of those children — or kids or being whatever they are — should discipline them or teach ’em how to act in public. I don’t think it’s my place to discipline her.”
Cheney says the reason Dewberry and his partner were asked not to return was because of their actions.
“What I saw was one of them half way under the table with his legs stretched out into the other guy’s lap. And he kind of looked really possum eyed at me as they say it in East Texas, he kind of looked at me like ‘uh-oh’.”
But Dewberry says nothing inappropriate was happening.
“We’re sitting on separate sides of the booth and really not even doing much talking. Because it was early in the morning and we were just sitting around waiting for our breakfast.”
He says after the incident, he went to the city for help. “They suggested that I not try to contact him… one of them used the word bigot.”
But bigot isn’t a word that Cheney would use to describe himself.
“Homosexuality, Blacks, Hispanics — they all come in here — everybody comes in here to eat,” said Cheney. “I’ve served my country for over 20 years; I know what my freedoms are.”
He continued, “I’m not gonna have people coming in here with their butt showing; I’m not gonna have people coming in here naked; I’m not gonna have people coming in here having sex on the tables.”
Cheney says he refuses to admit the couple back into his restaurant. Dewberry maintains they were doing nothing wrong and were discriminated against.
“Nobody deserves to be treated disrespectfully at an establishment that just seconds ago accepted their money.”
Gay Rights Attorney John Nechman says there really isn’t any legal recourse for Dewberry and his partner to take.
“We dont have protections in most parts of Texas for Gay and Lesbian people, other than in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso,” says Nechman. “There’s really no protections to go after someone because they’ve made a slur. Now if they made a slanderous statement, a libelous statement, where they claimed for example that the two were committing an act that they didn’t do, there would be legal action to take against them.”
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