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Same-Sex Couple Alleges Hotel Chef Refused to Cater Their Wedding

The hotel calls it a "vicious rumor."

The Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson, Texas.
The Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson, Texas.
Yelp/Ray L.

A same-sex couple in Texas says their wedding plans are on hold after a hotel chef allegedly refused to cater their reception. After 24 years together, Daren Merchant and Rick O'Connor planned to marry at the Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson, Texas on January 1 where Merchant's daughter is an employee, according to Fox. However, while at work Merchant's daughter claims she overheard the hotel chef complaining about serving a gay couple. Merchant says the chef stated that gay marriage was bringing about the apocalypse and compared the couple to Caitlyn Jenner.

In posts on Facebook and Yelp, Merchant says he was told "the head Chef would not cook for a couple of fags." Merchant claims he then spoke with Hilton Corporate and was told he'd have to "take it up with the hotel." He then turned to Twitter (Merchant has a private account), which elicited a response from the local corporate office, Magnolia Lodging. Magnolia said it would bring in an independent agency to investigate the couple's allegations and would tell the general manager Terry Martinez to call Merchant personally. According to Merchant, Martinez called more than a week later and "seemed very annoyed and bitter." Martinez then allegedly told the corporate office that Merchant did not return her calls.

In a follow-up post to Facebook yesterday, Merchant says he received a call from the president of the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association on behalf of the hotel and "discussed a very agreeable solution." Merchant is currently discussing the proposal with his partner. Eater reached out to the Hilton Garden Inn in Richardson and was referred to its corporate office, Magnolia Lodging. In an email, Magnolia responded to accusations by Merchant and O'Connor stating:

As an award-winning hotel, our success is based upon the satisfaction of our guests; we want everyone who visits to not only enjoy their stay, but to return in the future.

An accusation of a vicious rumor directed toward a guest, allegedly made by a staff member, surfaced last month. We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at this hotel, or any other Magnolia Lodging property, and in accordance with our company policy, promptly launched an internal investigation with a third-party human resources consultant. While we were unable to substantiate the rumor, we understand that this situation has caused extensive grief and stress for the guest, and the LGBT community. We welcome everyone to our hotel, and emphasize that we have zero tolerance for any discrimination of guests or staff.

As of August 28, 2015, an in-depth conversation with the guest has occurred, and we have extended a special invitation to him to host his event with us as originally planned, and will work to ensure they are accommodated. We are in the business of providing exceptional service and hospitality to everyone who walks through our doors, and will continue to do so.

Of course, this isn't the first time someone has been accused of refusing service to a same-sex couple. In April, Memories Pizza in Indiana exercised its right under a controversial new "religious freedom" law to deny service to members of the LGBT community. Similarly, in 2012, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Fortunately, the couple prevailed in a Court of Appeals this summer.

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