Food News

Burger King Gay Bashing: "A Whopper of a Hate Crime"

The King, it appears, hates gay people. ​

After what an advocate called "truly one of the worst cases of a hate crime to happen in the LGBT community," a New Jersey court awarded $3.15 million to 46-year-old Noel Robichaux and 43-year-old Peter Casbar. The gay couple entered a Union City Burger King in 2007, and a trio of employees, including Angel Caraballo, 28, and Christopher Soto, 19, verbally abused them and then chased them outside and pummeled them. Caraballo and Soto pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

"They beat us, they spit on us, and they threw us around like rag dolls," Robichaux said. "It was insane. We were astounded by the words they used. I was floored by the amount of anger and hate."

The Miami-based chain's response to the crime: a big yawn.

BK allows the restaurant to continue to operate and, until yesterday, had made no formal statement on the crime that we could turn up. Short Order phoned Arianne Cento, external affairs officer at Burger King corporate offices. She declined to comment but forwarded the following statement to New Times: "The Burger King system embraces its diverse consumer base and strives to provide every restaurant guest with the highest level of service and respect, regardless of background or sexual orientation. In addition, the safety and security of Burger King guests and employees are a top priority. Because the incident took place at an independently owned and operated franchised restaurant, and involves litigation relating to the franchisee's former employees, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on any specifics at this time."

Indeed, Burger King Corporation was not named in the lawsuit. But the chain could pull the franchise license as other chains have done. Or it could at least distance itself from this sort of behavior. It seems to blame Food Service Properties Corp. and Union City Restaurants Corp., which owned the Union City location and seven Burger King franchises at the time of the crime.

Steven Goldstein, chair and CEO of Garden State Equality, a New Jersey-based advocate group, told New Times: "This was a whopper of a hate crime. Truly one of the worst cases of a hate crime to happen in the LGBT community. We're looking to see if Burger King appeals this ruling. There can be no question that employees of Burger King beat a same-sex couple to a pulp. We will be aghast if Burger King appeals this. If they do appeal, I would imagine that everyone in the LGBT community would think twice before going into any Burger King again​."

The 98-page Burger King Franchise Statement gives guidelines about territories, food, training, and trademarks. In this document, nothing is said about responding if a store manager and/or employees beat gay people bloody because of their sexual preference. If Burger King is concerned about trademarks and appearances, it would be better served by giving a royal beheading to this Burger King franchisee rather than to issue a bland statement.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss