“It was a kiss I would share with my uncle,” Blair Funk told me. Except it wasn’t her uncle she kissed. It was her honey, Eva Sandoval.
These days it’s rare for gays and lesbians to be denied service in restaurants for acting like who they are. Blair assures me that she and Eva did nothing that wouldn’t have been appropriate for a man and a woman to do at a dinner date. No heavy makeout. No groping.
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.
"I think this shows that God has a tremendously great sense of humor," said senior pastor and rector Jo Hudson.
On a more serious note, she says the church, affiliated with the United Church of Christ, is a spiritual refuge for gay people of faith in a region associated with more conservative brands of Christianity.
"Because we are in the Bible Belt we have a lot of people of tremendous faith," she said in an interview.
"But a lot of them have been alienated and rejected by their faith community, which is fundamentalist, so they hanker for a place where they can encounter God," she said.