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Side of Guac With
Your Hate? 

Side of Guac With
Your Hate? 


L.A. eatery El Coyote, long known for attracting a heavily LGBT client base, is facing the heat now that bloggers have revealed one of the managers, who is a niece of the original owners, had donated to the pro-Proposition 8 campaign. El Coyote's answer: a free lunch/press conference giving her a forum to explain her decision. But the 70-some people in attendance were none too pleased with what they heard. Is a boycott the answer?

The El Coyote Mexican cafe has been a staple of the Los Angeles restaurant scene for seven decades. Not too far from gay ground zero West Hollywood, the kitschy decor and cheap margaritas have been drawing customers for decades, particularly members of the LGBT community, who flock to the restaurant's unofficial gay Thursdays for drinks and food.

But on Wednesday morning it wasn't about enchilada plate specials. El Coyote opened its doors early to host about 70 opponents of Proposition 8, many of whom had been longtime customers. Marjorie Christoffersen -- a manager, regular fixture at the restaurant, and the niece of the original owner -- was revealed by bloggers and a local food website to be a $100 donor to the Yes on 8 campaign.

After getting hundreds of angry e-mails and phone calls, El Coyote staff invited customers to a free lunch with Christoffersen to explain her position. In the restaurant's back dining room, a visibly shaken and tearful Christoffersen trembled as she read from a prepared statement.

"I'm sick at heart if I offended anyone in the gay community," Christoffersen said as family members flanked her. She pleaded with the crowd not to boycott the restaurant, telling them the only people to get hurt are the families of the El Coyote's 89 employees. "This was a personal donation," she said, "not the El Coyote's.

"It saddens me that my faith may keep you away from the El Coyote," she added.

But the press conference quickly went south when people in the crowd began asking questions. A man identifying himself as an ex-member of the Mormon Church asked if Marjorie was willing to donate to No on 8.

She started crying before saying... "I will not."

Chaos ensued, the crowd erupted -- many of them calling for a full on boycott of the restaurant.

Christoffersen and the employees of El Coyote are in the cross hairs of the next phase of the Prop. 8 protests. Will LGBTs punish businesses that espoused support for the passage of the marriage ban?

One of the restaurant's managers, identifying himself as Bill, said he was upset by the reaction and the potential loss of loyal customers, but noted that so far business had "not at all" suffered since the news broke of Christoffersen's donation. But Bill explained that the restaurant was making a donation to Lambda Legal and another LGBT-related charity, in support of what is expected to be a lengthy court battle over Prop. 8.

The debate on what to do continued after Christoffersen finished her remarks. A brief question-and-answer period deteriorated into a shouting match between some of the Prop. 8 opponents and Christoffersen. Her family then hustled her out of the restaurant.

One regular customer suggested Christoffersen didn't understand what she had done. "We have to be compassionate," he said.

Another Prop. 8 opponent disagreed, saying Christoffersen "is not taking any responsibility for how anyone feels."

A third customer pointed out that "Marjorie's power is her money," and that each of them had to decide how to use their own cash: "That's an individual choice we all have to make."

An El Coyote waitress stood up and pleaded with her customers not to abandon the staff, many of whom are gay or have gay family members. She noted that working at El Coyote made it easier to accept her own brother when he came out.

One woman, who identified herself as a documentary filmmaker, wondered aloud "Who are we going after next?" after describing the furor as a pile-on against just one Yes on 8 donor who made herself available to her critics.

A host of people shouted back. "We're going after everyone!" one man yelled.

Another attendee wanted to know if people in the room would be willing to help employees who did not want to work at El Coyote find other employment.

The boycott issue is not likely to go away soon. The morning of the El Coyote discussion, the president of the West Hollywood Democratic Club sent out an e-mail blast to encourage people to boycott businesses that supported Prop. 8. The blast specifically mentioned El Coyote.

The discussion broke up as many attendees opted not to stay for a free lunch. Outside the restaurant one gay couple said they had been twice-a-week customers. One of them said he didn't know if they would be back, but his partner chimed in to say he didn't think he could ever go back.

"That changes my answer," the first man said, holding up his hand and showing his wedding ring. "We're married, and I'm not going back without him."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Christopher Lisotta