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Jan 11, 2013

Equality NC Responds: New Bern Lesbian Couple Receive Letter From Local Restaurant Owner Condemning Their Sexuality

Arielle and Shawnee McPhail

After enjoying a meal together, Arielle and Shawnee McPhail were handed a letter from a New Bern restaurant owner condemning their sexuality. The New Bern couple is married in another state.

On December 4, 2012, after paying their bill at New Bern eatery The Stingray Café, lesbian patrons Arielle and Shawnee McPhail were handed a shocking letter by restaurant owner Ed McGovern. The letter (printed below) condemned their sexuality.

It read:

God said in the last days that man and wom[a]n would be lover of self, more [than] the lover of God. That man and woman would have unnatural [affection] for one another. Then, the coming of the Son of Man, who is Jesus. So please, look at your life. See how it hurt[s] everyone around you. And ask the Lord to open your eye[s] before it [is] to[o] late.

The Love of Christ

P.S. my daughter also was gay. It destroy[ed] her life and my grandson.

McGovern, who told WCTI NewsChannel 12 he handed them the note “out of love,” also said he had done something similar to another lesbian couple in the past.

“While the discriminatory experience Arielle and Shawnee faced at New Bern’s The Stingray Café is not isolated, we, as a community, must roundly condemn it and ask that this diverse Eastern North Carolina town remain on the right side of history by refusing to tolerate it,” said Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality NC, dedicated to securing equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) North Carolinians.

Many residents of New Bern and beyond have already voiced their outrage at Mr. McGovern’s anti-LGBT actions amid a flood of support for Arielle and Shawnee on The Stringray Café’s online guestbook.

"If we're experiencing it, then other people are too and that's not fair," Arielle McPhail told WCTI NewsChannel 12.

"We ask that any who agrees, not go [to The Stingray Café]," added Shawnee McPhail.

Establishments like The Stringray Café are now considered outliers in a quickly- changing economic landscape where the majority of businesses have made historic strides in embracing equality:

  • 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies protect employees on the basis of gender identity.
  • Since 2002, the number of Fortune 500 companies offering domestic partner benefits climbed 76 percent.

In order to help this coastal community heal from this incident, Equality NC has pledged to make New Bern a stop on its upcoming Town Hall tour and to publish a list of business establishments in New Bern and beyond who have pledged to value Equality for all North Carolinians, including their LGBT patrons and employees.


Representatives from Equality NC plan to travel to New Bern next month to open a dialogue and engage residents on LGBT issues. To stay updated on the details on this latest stop on Equality NC’s 2013 “Making Our Voices County” Town Hall Tour, please sign up for our Online Action Network.

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