El Coyote Boycott? Mormon Manager’s Faith Overrides “Love” For Customers
About 70 people gathered at the legendary El Coyote Cafe in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District Wednesday morning for a community sit down/brunch to hear Marjorie Christoffersen speak about why she gave $100 to Yes on 8 via the Mormon Church. Marjorie, a lifelong Mormon, is the niece of El Coyote’s founder and daughter of the current owner. She receives a salary as a floor manager. El Coyote has 89 employees, many of whom are gay.
Despite the staff delivering chips, salsa and drinks to the waiting guests, tensions were high when Arnaldo Archila, a long time manager and bartender, spoke about Ms. Christofferson and her views:
We don’t share her views as the management. They don’t press us to do anything that we don’t want to do, and we never talk about politics or religion. I don’t understand why we got connected to something going on at the top.
Well, El Coyote is involved because 10% of what Marjorie makes from El Coyote goes to the Mormon Church as required tithe, and that $100 she gave to Yes on 8 was in part money paid by gay clientele–and her income was used to strip their rights.
Then Marjorie herself spoke, shaking and barely able to stand, literally supported by her daughters who helped hold her upright as she read from a prepared statement. And it was sickening and saddening to see how her faith had leveraged her salvation and forced her to disconnect her love for her customers, and allowed her, despite that professed love, to deny them a civil right:
I am sick at heart that I have offended anyone in the gay community…you are treasured to me…I’ve been a member of the Mormon Church all my life and I responded to their request. This was a personal donation, not the El Coyote’s. In like fashion, any employee can support anything of its choosing…The restaurant does not support any political group…I don’t know of another place on earth where such diversity exists in harmony, joy and mutual respect. I know boycotts are planned…It saddens me that my faith will keep you away from the Coyote. I cannot and I will not, no matter what, change my love and respect for you and your views.
Marjorie took only one question, asked by Sam Page, an ex-Mormon: Would she personally make an equal donation to the campaigns to repeal Proposition 8? Before Marjorie could answer, manager Billy Scheoppner announced that El Coyote would make two $5,000 contributions, one to the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and other to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund. Schoeppner, who is openly gay, asked for suggestions to avert a boycott.
Page persevered, asking his question again, and Marjorie replied:
I cannot change a lifetime of faith.
Then one of her daughters added:
It’s her personal choice…she loves you guys and she loves this place…The church does not tell you how to vote, they did not say you must vote on Prop 8. They supported and donated to the Yes on 8 situation, campaign…You are not told ever how to vote–very, very rarely.
And then it got really rough when an activist shouted:
Your are not my friend. Friends don’t take away the civil rights of other friends and blame it on their church.
But the crowd was deeply touched when one of the waitress, Rocio who is working on her citizenship papers, explained that she didn’t know gay people before she came to work at El Coyote, but after a few weeks working there, her younger brother came to her and told her he was gay, and that because of El Coyote’s clientele she was able to understand him. She was pleading with customers, who clearly care for her as she does for them, to not leave El Coyote, and said that if she had had her citizenship she would have voted no on 8.
And therein lies the problem: Here is a restaurant, seeped in Los Angeles history with a huge gay clientele, that employs 89 staff many of whom are gay, all of whom (except Marjorie) are gay friendly–and that has a manager who is part of the owner’s family, who tithes to an anti-gay church and donated, at her church’s behest, to eliminate a civil right from the very people who she says she loves–people who help provide her with an income.
If Marjorie loves El Coyote as much as she says, she needs bid farewell to her job. And maybe the condescending idea of how you can "love" someone and be their "friend" yet feel they are not worthy of equal rights needs be tossed off the back of the bus.
At the end of the meeting, no one felt like eating, despite the offer of a free meal–Marjorie’s views had left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
A protest will be held this evening, Thursday, outside the restaurant.