Photo courtesy of Equality North Carolina

NEW BERN, N.C. — WCTI-TV, a FOX affiliate, reported on Jan. 10 and 11, that a restaurant owner Ed McGovern of The Stingray Café, 520 S. Front St., on Dec. 4, presented a married lesbian couple, Ariel and Shawnee McPhail, with a condemning letter in the parking area, after they had completed their meal and paid their bill, which stated:

“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.”

It seemed that McGovern disapproved of lesbian couples kissing outside his restaurant, but said that he gave the letter to the couple out of love. This was not the first time he has done this.

Shawnee McPhail claims that they were not kissing, but simply holding hands and that she and her partner did not engage in public displays of affection.

She added, “Secondly, if I did kiss my wife in public, what married couple would you go to and say, ‘how dare you. You cannot hold hands and you cannot kiss in public therefore you deserve my judgment.’”

McGovern’s behavior is not illegal, though one might argue it could constitute harassment. North Carolina law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in such areas as housing, employment or public accommodations.

“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,” Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality North Carolina (ENC), said in a press release. ENC is dedicated to securing equal rights and justice for LGBT North Carolinians.

In order to help this coastal community heal from this incident, ENC 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 ENC plan to travel to New Bern in February to open a dialogue and engage residents on LGBT issues. To stay updated on the details on this latest stop on the 2013 “Making Our Voices County” Town Hall Tour, sign up for ENC’s Online Action Network at

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.