‘It sends a clear signal’: Pride flag torn at restaurant owned by couple that sued the state to legalize gay marriage in Utah

(Photo courtesy of Moudi Sbeity) The pride flag hanging above Laziz Kitchen, located at 912 S. Jefferson Street in Salt Lake City, was torn over night on Monday. "Actions like this send a clear signal to LGBTQ youth, teens who are transitioning, teens who identify as queer or gender fluid that they are not accepted," said Moudi Sbeity, who co-owns the restaurant.

The pride flag that hangs over the entryway to Laziz Kitchen in Salt Lake City is an important symbol to Moudi Sbeity, who was among three couples who successfully sued in 2013 to legalize gay marriage in Utah.

It sends a message, Sbeity said, that there’s room for everyone there.

That’s why it was so upsetting when he came to work Tuesday to find someone had mostly torn down the flag overnight, leaving just a vestige of rainbow cloth swaying in the wind.

“For a lot of people who feel marginalized because of who they are, something as simple as a pride flag can really instill a sense of hope and acceptance and welcoming,” Sbeity said Wednesday. “It sends a clear signal that there’s still a lot of intolerance and a long way to go for full acceptance within our community.”

Laziz, located at 912 S. Jefferson St., evolved from a business selling hummus at the Downtown Farmers Market in Pioneer Park to a full-fledged restaurant with a Middle Eastern menu. Sbeity owns the restaurant with his husband, Sen. Derek Kitchen, a former Salt Lake City councilman and the only openly gay lawmaker in the state Legislature.

The pride flag incident happened just days after Laziz was featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” — the first “Pop & Pop” shop to appear on the show, the restaurant joked in a post on Facebook.

It’s not the first time someone has targeted the flag. Since the restaurant opened in November 2016, Laziz has had one flag stolen and another dismounted.

“If this was a one-time thing, I could say maybe it’s some kids that are just having fun at someone else’s expense,” Sbeity said. “But when it comes to pride flags and incidents like this, it usually is because a person feels strongly towards that symbol.”

Since the restaurant posted about the flag on social media, Sbeity said it has received an outpouring of community support, with many people reaching out to donate flags and offering kind words.

“Although we only need one flag, we are gladly accepting the rest to share with other community members that might want one or need one,” he said. “A lot of people have reached out to just voice their support, which feels really good to know that we have a community standing alongside us.”

Laziz hasn’t replaced the flag yet but plans to soon. “We have a large one on order,” Sbeity said.

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Plaintiffs in the now-closed case of Kitchen v. Herbert, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity discuss the journey to marriage equality in Utah and what it's been like to be at the focal point of one of the highest-profile, history-making gay marriage cases in the country,Thursday, October 9, 2014 at their home in Salt Lake City. The same-sex plaintiffs, whose win at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals was upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the stateÕs appeal.

The Salt Lake Tribune is partnering with ProPublica and newsrooms across the country to better understand the prevalence and nature of hate crimes, bias and prejudice. You can share your insights with us at sltrib.com/documentinghate and we may contact you for future stories.