Friday, July 25, 2003

Dunkin’ Donuts accused of discriminating against gay customers


From the Daily Star

Dunkin’ Donuts has once again come under fire from gay groups who invited people to sign an online petition to protest what they described the franchise’s “Nazi policies” in its Beirut branches.

In a statement posted at beirut.indymedia.org, activist Ghassan Makarem wrote that for the past two years, “Dunkin’ Donuts’ Beirut branches have been denying service to gay and ‘gay-looking’ customers under the pretext of protecting their version of ‘family values.’”

In its Achrafieh and Downtown Beirut branches, Dunkin’ Donuts posted a note which read as follows: “We ask our dear clients to conform to decent appearance and to comply with our supervisor’s directions on this matter.”

Elie Tanios, the franchise’s spokesperson in Beirut, told The Daily Star that the note was posted eight months ago. “By decent appearance we mean behavior,” he said, adding that some of their male customers in Achrafieh and Downtown Beirut caused chaos during their visits.

“They talk loudly and invade other customers’ privacy,” said Tanios, who argued that they were not trying to impose a dress code on customers. When asked whether a person who has died his or her hair red, for example, was welcome in Dunkin’’ Donuts, Tanios answered that such people “were most welcome” at their branches. “We only want some customers to behave.”

But members of Beirut’s gay community claimed that they were repeatedly asked to leave the Dunkin’ Donuts’ premises for no obvious reason, and demanded that they be treated the same as other customers.
“All humans are equal, thus gay community members ­ who have been regular customers of Dunkin’’ Donuts Beirut ­ are entitled to the same service as any other customer,” Makarem wrote in his online petition.

An employee at Dunkin’ Donuts who refused to give her name said that gay customers went far beyond local social norms. “In several instances, these customers displayed homosexual affection. They held hands, hugged and sometimes even kissed while they were on the premises,” she said.

“Personally, I’m not offended by such demeanor. But for Lebanese social norms, their behavior was not acceptable to other customers, who threatened to call the police,” she added.

The Dunkin’ Donuts employee also said that if homosexuals intend to fight the government and Lebanese society for “freedom to come out of the closet,” then the coffeehouse should not be the battleground for this fight.

She added that the probability that a gay would enter a Dunkin’ Donuts shop and get served was high “if he behaves well.” She also said that it was hard to identify homosexuals in Lebanon, but “those who insist on coming out of the closet” have to face the consequences.

But all Dunkin’ Donuts justifications did not convince the gay community, which insisted that they be treated fairly, and not discriminated against. “We demand a press release from the mother company and the Lebanese local branches clarifying the issue and stating that homosexuals are welcome on the premises of Dunkin’ Donuts worldwide, including Beirut, and will be offered the same services … just like any other customer.”

Until then, the petition added, the gay community would lead a campaign to boycott the franchise.


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