While enjoying a bite to eat at a local diner, you overhear a waiter giving two women at the next table a hard time.
“Are you sisters?” he asks them. “Are your husbands joining you?”
At first, he just seems to be a nuisance but then he gets personal.
The two women and their children areshocked and embarrassed. As they try to place an order, the waiter gets even more incensed and finally asks them to leave. As the family of four gets up to go, they catch your eye.
What Would You Do? Come to the defense of the gay couple and their small children? Or look the other way?
We decided to put America’s comfort level with gay parents to the test and set out for a diner in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, N.Y., to find out. We rigged the restaurant with hidden cameras and hired actors Traci Hovel and Lisa Birnbaum to play our lesbian couple. Marina March, 10, and Anthony Ippolito, 9, played their two children. Brian Sheridan played our homophobic waiter. Members of COLAGE.org, an organization by and for people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer parents, joined us in the control room.
At first, no one seemed to notice our waiter’s incessant questioning — even when he got more insulting and outspoken. Instead, patrons focused on their breakfast and ignored the commotion.
As Brian asked Traci and Lisa to leave the diner, he passed by a couple seated next to them.
“You know what?” the man volunteered to our homophobic waiter. “I don’t like it. I don’t believe in it. But as long as they’re not sitting there kissing while I’m sitting here with my daughter…”
Then “What Would You Do?” host John Quinones introduced himself and explained that it was all an experiment.
“I felt bad for them,” the man told Quinones. “I couldn’t believe [it]!”
As our hidden cameras rolled again, patrons noticed Brian’s homophobic tirade but no one seemed to come to the aid of our gay family. In scene after scene, people said they didn’t get involved because they thought it wasn’t their business and the family could fend for themselves.
We swapped actors — from lesbians to gay dads to see if it would elicit some response. Still, few spoke up.
But then we met Randi and Kevin Nash, married for 20 years. As soon as our intolerant waiter began his badgering, Randi’s face said it all. She sat open-mouthed and astonished by what she was hearing. When the waiter finally stepped away, Randi and Kevin both offered their support to our gay couple — telling them they’d “never seen anything like it in their life.” Everyone shook hands as Brian returned and tried to befriend the Nashes.
They were having none of it.
“Is there anything I can do?” Brian asked them.