A pride flag hanging outside Laziz Kitchen in Central Salt Lake was found torn, appearing to be ripped off by an unnamed individual, this past week on Feb. 11, 2019.
Laziz Kitchen is owned by Utah State Senator Derek Kitchen, a former University of Utah alumnus, and his partner Moudi Sbeity. The morning after the torn flag was discovered, Sbeity posted on Facebook, writing, “It’s so sad to walk into a place I love under such a jarring banner of hatred, but it won’t stop us from buying another flag and standing tall.”
There has been an outpouring wave of support toward Kitchen and Sbeity in response to the incident across social media platforms. A volume of pride flags was also donated to Laziz Kitchen in unity.
The pride flag represents the solidarity of the LGBTQ distinct communities and celebrates a history of activism, persistence and validation of their identities. Kitchen believes it “also illustrates that the price [of] that flag is so much larger than just for the LGBT community. It represents diversity and acceptance and inclusion.”
Sworn in earlier this year, Kitchen is notable for suing against the state in 2012 for denying same-sex marriage protection that would allow for same-sex couples to marry briefly in Utah. The Supreme Court cited Kitchen’s case when making the monumental ruling to legalize same-sex marriages throughout the entire country in 2015. Kitchen represents Utah’s Senate District 2.
Laziz Kitchen came to be after Kitchen and Sbeity’s earlier small business, Laziz Foods, had several successful runs selling hummus and other popular Middle Eastern foods at local farmers markets. The restaurant is located on 912 Jefferson St. near Harvey Milk Boulevard — named after a famous gay-rights activist.
“I think what’s been surprising for me is how quick people from all political stripes have been to come out and say that ‘this is not appropriate,’” Kitchen said. “I think that has been really eye-opening for me — just how accepting of a community we live in.”
In the Utah State Legislature’s 2019 General Session, a hate crime bill has been re-introduced by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City. The bill aims to enhance criminal penalties for those found committing hate crimes in the state.
“I do think that the current political climate has emboldened some people to sort of retaliate and make bolder and stronger statements,” Kitchen said. “I think this is what you’re seeing with things like the cutting of the flag and other random acts of hate that I’ve heard about throughout the community.”
According to Kitchen, this bill calls for “broader protections for minority groups that are frequently targeted, and that includes people who are immigrants, and that includes people who are disabled, and that includes people who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.”
There have been similar waves of alleged hate crimes occurring in the state of Utah. This includes the recent banner placement on the block U by an “alt-right” white nationalist group, flyers posted on the U’s campus by that same group, and an incident this past November involving a man and his son of Latino descent being severely injured and allegedly targeted due to their race.
In response to the incident involving the torn pride flag, a spokesperson from the U commented, “We were disappointed to learn of this incident. As a part of the larger Salt Lake community, the University of Utah is committed to fostering a culture of respect and inclusion.”