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Cop Still on the Hook for Ejecting Men Over Kisses

(CN) - Texas men who were thrown out of a taco restaurant for kissing can sue the city of El Paso for violating their civil rights, a state appeals court ruled.

Carlos Diaz de Leon, Daniel Marquez, Kimo Sylva and Gabriel Morales entered Chico's Tacos one evening in the summer of 2009, and two of the men kissed at the service counter and again when they sat down to eat.

A security guard allegedly chided the men for "clowning around" and threatened to throw them out.

"We won't allow you to do faggot things here," he allegedly said.

When the manager failed to help the customers, they called the police. The men claim Officer Israel Rodriguez-Aceves responded to the scene, but sided with the security guard, saying it is "against the law for two men to kiss in public."

As Rodriguez-Aceves threw the four men out of the restaurant, he allegedly told them, "You are lucky that you are not going to be ticketed for homosexual activity."

In a civil rights lawsuit against the city and Rodriguez-Aceves, the men said they were treated like criminals on the basis of their sexual orientation.

They also complained about being threatened with prosecution under the homosexual conduct statute, which has been declared unconstitutional.

A trial court ruled in the city's favor on jurisdictional grounds, but the Eighth District Texas Court of Appeals overturned the decision.

"If Rodriguez-Aceves acted as Appellants alleged, then he also denied them the protection of the city's anti-discrimination ordinance and forced them to leave the restaurant against their will. We conclude that Appellants have alleged facts showing injury sufficient enough to establish standing to bring this lawsuit," Justice Guadalupe Rivera wrote for a three-member panel.

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