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A Taco House Divided?

November 11, 2013

Over the weekend, controversy erupted at one of Southtown’s most popular restaurants.

While grabbing lunch at Taco Haven last Friday, patron Michael Cepek spotted activists outside who were seeking to collect signatures for the ongoing effort to oust council members supportive of the city’s recently passed LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, a measure that grants gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents equal protections. The table set up at the entrance calling for the recall of District 1 council member Diego Bernal, who authored the NDO, and Mayor Julian Castro is part of the citywide push by anti-LGBT residents to get back at elected officials who voted for the ordinance’s passage. That, coupled with a chalkboard at the restaurant bar advertising “STRAIGHT” shots incited the self-proclaimed long-time fan of the neighborhood institution.

So, Cepek took to Yelp to sound off about the incident. (Several other people had taken to Yelp to express their disgust over the weekend, but the site has since deleted most of these “vigilante” posts which go against the site’s Content Guidelines).

“It’s one thing for a business owner to keep their political opinions to themselves–it’s another thing to shove them in the face of all the business’s customers,” he wrote on the Internet review site.

Cepek, who claims the activists were “invited” by the establishment, writes that he confronted the manager who said he, “didn’t want men dressing up as women and going into girls’ bathrooms.” Since the post, gay rights supporters headed to Taco Haven to protest and LGBT advocacy group, GetEQUALTX has called for all-out boycott of the family-owned restaurant.

On Monday, an owner of the eatery told the Current they are planning to release a public statement in order to clarify the “misinformation.” In the meantime, varying accounts of what was said by the establishment have surfaced.

Erin Susan Jennings, a member of GetEqual, says she contacted Reggie Torres, one of the 12 owners of Taco Haven. Jennings says he didn’t seem opposed to the anti-NDO activists. While not explicitly in support of the removal of Bernal and Castro, Torres appeared fine with allowing the activists to carry on.

“He told me, as a Catholic and a Christian, I have no interest in telling them they needed to leave or what they were doing was wrong, that God will take care of it.”

Jennings says that by not forcing them to stop their recall activity, the restaurant owners are implicitly supporting anti-LGBT efforts.

“The restaurant hasn’t condemned them. They consider them customers and friends that are still welcome there,” says Jennings. “That is not the kind of message they should be sending. They owe an apology to the LGBT community for giving the impression of support.”

However, Bernal says after communicating with the Torres family, it appears the situation may amount to a misunderstanding. He says the activists misled the owners, who weren’t aware the anti-NDOers were going to petition for a recall. Instead, they were only told they would be handing out church-related literature.

If it wasn’t a misunderstanding, the conflicting reports point to the possibility of a house divided. Considering the local restaurant has a dozen owners– meaning a dozen opinions and a dozen perspectives– some family members could simply be more tolerant than others, leading to the confusion. Local politics blogger, Randy Bear, talked to members of the Torres family after the debacle and says that while some were open and accepting of the LGBT community, perhaps not all of them share the same viewpoint.

While a clear account of the family’s intentions awaits, the owners have given reason for the LGBT community to continue their criticism. Hired on to represent the establishment is local attorney Allan Parker, according to Texas Public Radio. If the family is hoping to distance themselves from the NDO controversy, Parker was probably not the best choice. As a lawyer for the Justice Foundation, a conservative legal group, Parker pitted himself in the middle of the debate, decrying the NDO at anti-LGBT rallies in the lead up to the vote and testifying against domestic partner benefits in 2011. In fact, Parker is no stranger to controversy, LGBT or otherwise, having served as the lead legal counsel for Norma McCorvey– the “Jane Roe” of landmark abortion rights U.S. Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade.

In the meantime, LGBT supporters are looking elsewhere for a taco fix.

Current Food Editor Jessica Elizarraras contributed reporting. 

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  • Lindsay

    not that this is the main point, but wasn’t Sarah Weddington the lawyer for “Jane Roe”?

  • Stand up

    Equal rights means equal rights. We are all human beings, and when the time comes if there is judgment to be made, it sure won’t be us here on earth doing the judging. You better clean up your own house before you judge others. What would Jesus do? I didn’t think so.

  • Reverse ndo

    I’ll never understand how a community whose main platform is “tolerance” can be so intolerant. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just because they don’t agree that a man dressed as a woman should enter the girls bathroom, doesn’t make them anti-lgbt.

  • Jesse

    It was never about whether a “man dressed as a woman should enter the girls bathroom.” Are you really that dense?

  • Sick of The Old Guard

    Being tolerant doesn’t mean we have to put up with your intolerance.

    You people really are cowards. You spew intolerance and when people call you out for it, you want to label it “intolerance”. Well, no, it doesn’t work that way.

    Intolerance should never be accepted, whatever its guise may be. So, don’t expect those of a tolerant nature to put up with your continued, ignorant intolerance.

    This isn’t about “opinion”, it’s about “rights”.

  • Cynthia A. Santos

    This is going too far we are all human and I think like this man keep it to yourself was is Taco Heaven owners thinking by doing this it is going to bring more people to their restaurant for all we know if this is going too far they might even banned his restaurant from the city. Our Mayor is doing good in the City of San Antonio like we say keep your opinions to yourself and don’t bring this matter no more. It has been voted and the people la gente de San Antonio have spoken and leave it be. Everyone has their opinions if I was Mayor and heard this I would just banned the restaurant out of this area all together.

  • Erin Jennings

    Allan Parker has been representing “Roe” in the effort to _overturn_ Roe v Wade, according to his website:

  • Kelli Maples

    The NDO says that NO ONE can enter ANY restroom for illegal intent. That’s pretty clear, yes?

  • Kelli Maples

    A few things. Failure to ascertain the content of the “religious” materials was a mistake. Failure to take action about the recall and anti NDO efforts was mistake number two. Those people in effect, lied to them, if we in fact, can believe that. Failure to make a quick, unambiguous statement (a quick, easy fix), was mistake number three. Retaining the services of an anti lgbt “attorney” was mistake number four. Now, everyone makes mistakes. But, it appears to me that these people are either totally clueless, or these weren’t really ALL mistakes, possibly a combination. You decide.

  • Rene Roberts

    did they just break the law by discriminate against the gay and lesbian community ? I think that’s the new law we pass right?

  • LIBerateUS

    So what was up with the “STRAIGHT” promo in the restaurants own bar? That has nothing to do with the anti-NDO group. That was something sanctioned and promoted by someone in the Torres owned establishment. Be honest Torres family. Fire the person who did it and/or own up to the disgusting “STRAIGHT” promo and ensure it will not happen again.

  • rwlawoffice

    Jesus would tell them he loved them, point out their sin, and tell them to go and sin no more. He certainly would not have given moral acceptance to sinful behavior.

  • Vicky

    Re man dressed as women going to a female restroom. I believe this is a big concern to people because the fear is the following and maybe this has not crossed your mind: What IF a child sex offender puts on a wig and clip on earrings and goes into a female restroom to take his next victim child. No one is going to stop him from going into the girls restroom because there is now nothing stopping a male going into a female restroom as long as he maybe seems gay? Yes Kelli Maples states that NDO says NO ONE can enter for illegal intent. But is that really going to stop a sex offender preying on little girls. This comment is not meant to put any side down but just stating one reasons why some parents are concerned.

  • Kelli Maples

    That scare tactic has been used over and over ad nauseam. In over 30 years since these type of ordinance s have been passed, not a single incident , such as you have described, has occurred. None. Zero. What man would do that? Your argument has been disproven time and time again. Did you know that?

  • daddybigcat

    Its good to try to recall immoral leaders- castro and cronies have got to go.

  • daddybigcat

    it really is about that wake up.

  • daddybigcat

    its a big concern people need to realize homosexuality is really a mental disorder- its one of the very first intake questions in the prison system- the mental health system and the military for a reason. homosexuals are immoral and perverse- and do not need special rights to use the bathrooms of the opposite sex.

  • daddybigcat

    the homosexuals do not have the right to enter the bathrooms of the opposite sex- they are sexual perverts.

  • Ronnie

    People do not want to be forced to transgress their beliefs even though they must leave the sanctuary of the church and exist in the world. Where is the need to rob the most basic rights of association and conscience, forbid people from the public market by ordinance unless they submit to participation in repellent behaviour, and clear the way for lawsuits to obliterate remaining dissent? Let people do business, and let them succeed or fail on their merits. Let others arise without religious compunctions and provide the services unconscionable to the religious. Where is the need to morally enslave those who disagree with you?

    And here, gay activist, Editor and Media icon Andrew Sullivan truly ‘gets it'::”…I defended the Irish parade’s right to exclude gays. The right of a bigot to walk down the street is the same as the right of a drag queen to walk down the street. You attack it for one group, every group will suffer….I believe a free country is freedom for bigotry. I think it’s great they can say what the hell they want and we can fight back with words, but shutting people down, criminalizing them, is not a free country.” And 2 years later, Sullivan gave these comments during an interview: “we should never threaten the conscientious beliefs of those who disagree with us, but we should welcome their freedom because it’s our freedom too…You up the ante and start calling them bigots and trying to coerce them, you’re as bad as they were to us. And we must never do that.” And folks, this is from the mouth of a gay activist, of all people. You know it’s tyranny when your own activist brethren recognize it as so.

  • Ronnie

    A couple months ago, gay activists were so vicious and militant and disorderly -holding demonstrations in front of “Sweet Cakes By Melissa” that company was forced to close it’s doors. Folks – this is the true face of LGBT “equality”.

  • Stand up

    Jesus accepted the people who others looked down upon.

  • Jesse

    It’s good for you that we don’t discriminate against the mentally inferior either.

  • Jesse

    You do understand that this isn’t actually in the law, right?

  • daddybigcat

    homosexuality is a mental disorder.