Paris restaurant owner denies anti-gay rant but admits Chick-fil-A promotion

A tipster over in Paris (Texas, that is) alerted us to this Topix.com thread which accuses a restaurant owner in the East Texas town of making “anti-gay hate speech publicly.” The thread provides few concrete details of the allegation, but here’s the first comment:

Those present who heard it were shocked at the homophobic rant that he launched into, hate speech rhetoric such as “fa**ots are taking over everywhere”. Gay and lesbian community- of which HE HAD SEVERAL GOOD CUSTOMERS- will now be boycotting the establishment…

Read all 120 subsequent responses for yourself if you have time, but the restaurant owner, Drew Crawford of Crawford’s Hole in the Wall, told Instant Tea it’s not true.

“It sounds to me like somebody just had a grudge and like they started up something,” said Crawford, who’s owned the restaurant a block from the Lamar County Courthouse for the last 10 years. “Somebody says I made a speech bashing gays. It’s not true. I’ve never bashed anybody.”

Crawford did, however, acknowledge that this summer, at the height of the Chick-fil-A controversy, his restaurant offered free lunches to people who presented receipts from the chicken chain. He said an employee posted the promotion on the restaurant’s Facebook page — and we found the above photo on Flickr of the promotion advertised in chalk on an exterior door of the restaurant.

Crawford compared it to other periodic promotions, such as  free lunch for anyone who works in a hospital. Because the nearest Chick-fil-A is in Sherman, he said the restaurant gave away only one lunch valued at $7. Crawford said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. But he said he doesn’t hate gay people, he has regular customers who are gay, and everyone is welcome in his restaurant regardless of sexual orientation.

“Do I like Chick-fil-A? Yes. do I like waffle fries? Yes. Am I married to a woman? Yes. Do I have kids? Yes. Everybody’s got their opinions,” Crawford said.

“Do I support gay rights or whatever? No, I don’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that, just like if the gay community doesn’t support something we do, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Crawford said. “Somebody just states their opinion, and then you turn it into, ‘I hate queers and hate faggots.’ … There’s never been a speech. There’s never been nothing.”

Or at least nothing we can verify at this point other than a promotion supporting a company that’s funneled millions to anti-gay hate groups over the last few years.

—  John Wright

1st of 3 suspects in brutal anti-gay hate crime in Reno, Texas, sentenced to 8 years in prison

Burke-Burnett

Victim Burke Burnett is shown after the attack.

James Mitchell Laster

One of three suspects in a brutal anti-gay hate crime in East Texas in October has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

James Mitchell Laster, 33, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to eight years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on Thursday, Feb. 23, a representative from the Lamar County District Clerk’s Office confirmed today.

Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young was in a jury trial and unavailable for comment this afternoon, according to his office. However, Young told the Paris News last week that Laster also “pled true to the hate crime allegation.” Young said Laster must serve a minimum of four years before he’s eligible for parole.

Laster was one of three suspects charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault, in addition to hate crime enhancements, in the beating of 26-year-old Burke Burnett.

Burnett, who’s gay, suffered second-degree burns and needed more than 30 stitches following the attack at a private Halloween party in Reno, a small town just east of Paris and 100 miles northeast of Dallas, in the early morning hours of Oct. 30.

Burnett said his three attackers yelled anti-gay slurs as they sucker-punched him in the eye, stabbed him in the back and arm with a broken beer bottle, and threw him onto a lit burn barrel. The case made national news after graphic photos of Burnett’s injuries were posted on Dallas Voice’s website.

Burnett, who now reportedly lives in Houston, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.

The other two suspects in the attack, 25-year-old Micky Joe Smith of Brookston, and 33-year-old Daniel Shawn Martin of Paris, are awaiting trial, according to online Lamar County court records.

Laster was initially charged with one count of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, hate crime, repeat offender; and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, hate crime, repeat offender. The other charges reportedly were dropped in exchange for Laster’s guilty plea. Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. However, the hate crime designation could have enhanced the charge to a first-degree felony, punishable by life in prison.

—  John Wright

Gay man stabbed with broken beer bottle, thrown onto fire in apparent hate crime in Reno, TX

Burke Burnett says he was punched in the eye, stabbed with a broken beer bottle and thrown onto a lit burn barrel early Sunday at a party in Reno, Texas. View more photos of Burnett's injuries below.

UPDATE: Three suspects have been arrested in connection with this crime. Read more here.

A 26-year-old gay man says he was the victim of a brutal hate crime early Sunday in Reno, Texas — a small town just east of Paris and about 100 miles northeast of Dallas.

Burke Burnett said he was at a private party at about 1 a.m. when four men suddenly attacked him, stabbing him at least twice with a broken beer bottle before throwing him onto a fire. His attackers yelled things like “pussy-ass faggot,” “gay bitch” and “cock-sucking punk,” Burnett said.

Burnett said it took 30 stitches to close stab wounds to his back and forearm, as well as a cut above his left eye. He also sustained second-degree burns and severe bruises.

“They knew I was gay,” Burnett said Monday. “I’m convinced they were trying to kill me.”

Jeff Sugg, interim chief of the Reno Police Department, released a statement Monday afternoon saying: “The Reno Police Department is currently investigating an aggravated assault that took place last weekend. The investigation is ongoing and additional information will be provided when available.”

Reno police officials declined to further discuss their investigation.

Burnett said the officer investigating the case told him the attack will be classified as a hate crime. But Burnett said his attackers, whose identities are known, remain at large, and the officer told him it could be two weeks before they’re arrested.

“I’m scared for my life,” Burnett said, adding that he’s staying with a family friend. “I’m scared to go home. These guys have nothing to lose.”

—  John Wright

President Obama appoints 1st male, 1st openly gay White House social secretary

Jeremy Bernard (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Jeremy Bernard, a native Texan formerly on staff at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, today became the first male AND the first openly gay person to serve as social secretary in the White House,according to this report in the Los Angeles Times.

Bernard worked in the financial industry in California and was a consultant for Obama’s 2008 campaign. He also served on the LGBT Advisory Committee for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office, the L.A. Police Department and the mayor’s office. And he’s done work on behalf of A.N.G.L.E — Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality — and the National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

In appointing Bernard, President Obama said, “Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People’s House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways.”

—  admin

Paris Hilton in Vegas Coke Bust

PARIS HILTON X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMParis Hilton was arrested for cocaine possession Friday night in Las Vegas, her third drug-related incident this summer.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Gay Texan may be last villain on 'Law & Order'

Ash Christian
Ash Christian

It was a bit stunning earlier this month when NBC announced unceremoniously it was canceling “Law & Order” after an amazing, record-tying 20 seasons as the longest-running primetime drama series, along with “Gunsmoke.” Well, the final guy to die on “Gunsmoke” was famously Gary Busey; it may be that the final bad guy ever on “L&O” will be Ash Christian.

Ash is an actor and director who was born and raised in Paris, Texas. He debuted with “Fat Girls,” which was a festival hit, and is in post on his second directorial effort, “Mangus and, if the episode plays out as hoped, he could also be one of the final actors to appear on “L&O.”

I’ll be TiVo’ing it. Maybe Ash could become the next Busey … you know, with an Oscar nomination, not horrific mug shots and embarrassing character parts into his dotage.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LGBT mayors around the world

Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit
Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit

On Monday, Jan. 4, Annise Parker will be sworn in as mayor of Houston. Houston will become the largest city in the world with a lesbian mayor and the second largest city with a gay or lesbian mayor.

Houston and Paris have approximately the same populations, the ranking might change next year with the new U.S. census. The number used here is the latest estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau and the official French population estimate.

California and New York are tied as the states with the most LGBT mayors (four each). Massachusetts and Maryland each have three. Texas has two. (A third, the mayor of San Angelo, resigned earlier this year). Florida and Oregon also each have two.

—  David Taffet