For Carlos Renteria and his husband Jaime, creating a unique and fulfilling experience at their Wichita restaurant Los Compadres is their number one priority as business owners.
“Our heart goes into whatever we send out,” Carlos said. “I couldn’t begin to imagine saying to someone,’I won’t serve you because your beliefs don’t match mine.’ We just want people to enjoy themselves while they’re here, plain and simple. You show your love and passion for what you do and you demonstrate it. It is inhumane to show someone that disrespect or turn them away. Being a business owner is an opportunity to serve our community — all of it —and there’s no reason to hurt someone or cause pain.”
Growing up in Wichita, Kansas as a Mexican immigrant who later came out as gay, Carlos explained that the area was very conservative during his formative years, as well as during his time in college. Following graduation, he moved to Dallas, where he met his future husband. While that city was more accepting, Carlos and Jaime decided to move back to Wichita in order to be closer to Carlos’ family — and now Carlos says Wichita is a much more accepting and understanding place.
Carlos and Jaime are just two of the hundreds of small business owners who have joined the Small Businesses Against LGBTQ Discrimination Coalition, a group of businesses who have pledged to stand up against LGBTQ discrimination. Kansas, the couple’s home state, is one of 30 states where it is still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
May 5 marks the start of Small Business Week, and this year business owners like Carlos and Jaime are leveraging the week to speak out about the importance of serving all people, including LGBTQ people. Last year, there was a case before the U.S. Supreme Court about a bakery seeking an exemption from Colorado’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law. The bakery asserted that by selling a wedding cake to a same-sex couple it would be endorsing the wedding and violating the owner’s religious beliefs. The court did not take a stance on LGBTQ discrimination, but stated that Colorado’s Civil Rights Division had improperly handled the bakery’s case and sent it back to them for reconsideration.
However, Carlos, Jaime, and thousands of other small business owners understand that when they provide a service to a customer, they’re not endorsing anything about the customer. They’re simply providing a service – they’re open to the public, and so they must be open to all.
Carlos and Jaime sincerely believe that all people deserve to be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love. They’ve been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance they’ve found in their community as well.
“When we were able to move to a new space three months ago, we were excited because we’d started much smaller. We met with the landlord and told him we were married, and he just said ‘I respect you, love is love.’ We’ve learned to not be afraid of embracing who we are, and our business has only grown because of it.”