The Gray Lady Notes LGBT Frustration with Chick-fil-A’s Anti-Gay Behavior
The older and more sentient I get, the harder it becomes for me to do simple things like shop or eat. Through most of high school, it never occurred to me to consult something like the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index. By college, my house mates and I were agonizing over whether to buy the delicious chocolate chips of low-scoring Kraft or more responsible, less enjoyable confections. We chose the latter. (Thankfully, Kraft has since made great strides toward equality—and allowing college students to make guilt-free cookies.)
It was with a bit of a surprise yesterday morning that I opened the New York Times to see the article “A Chicken Chain’s Corporate Ethos Is Questioned by Gay Rights Advocates.” It seems the NYT has finally noticed LGBT folks’ growing frustration with a company that claims to be “family friendly” while at the same time working to deny many families basic rights. Talk about political déjà vu!
It’s never been a secret that Chick-fil-A is a right-wing Christian organization. They’re closed on Sundays, which founder S. Truett Cathy has reportedly said is “our way of honoring God,” and the chain frequently gives out religious toys with its kids meals. Early this month, the story broke that a local eatery was sponsoring anti-gay marriage conferences, this time in my home state of Pennsylvania. For those with strong stomaches, there’s a video on the website for The Art of Marriage, the organization behind the conferences. In the classic style of these kinds of religious promos, it’s overproduced, features unnecessary sports metaphors (ooh, a spat is just like football!), and waits a couple minutes to wallop you with its true intent.
The ensuing brouhaha led to this ridiculous statement from Chick-fil-A corporate on their Facebook page (as preserved on Wikipedia):
First and foremost, thanks for your patience as we made sure we gathered the facts in regards to recent postings. We have determined that one of our independent Restaurant Operators in Pennsylvania was asked to provide sandwiches to two Art of Marriage video seminars. As our fans, you know we do our best to serve our local communities, and one of the ways we do that is by providing food to schools, colleges, civic groups, businesses, places of worship, not-for-profit groups, etc. At his discretion, the local Operator agreed to simply provide a limited amount of food. Our Chick-fil-A Operators and their employees try very hard every day to go the extra mile in serving ALL of our customers with honor, dignity and respect.
Like many right-wing politicians, Chick-fil-A wants us to know that they’re concerned with our “honor” (read: wallets), but that they’re still going to fight tooth and nail to make sure we don’t have equal rights. I wonder, would they expect anyone to swallow this if they provided food for a group that rallied against a religious or ethnic minority? It seems people are finally starting to realize what’s going on, and I’m hoping it hits the chain in the “honor” too. You can’t have it both ways: either you’re for everyone’s rights and you don’t try to oppress anyone, or you put some people above others. You can’t have your greasy chicken and eat it too.
Since the article was published, the company has responded with another statement from President Dan Cathy, which netizens have already picked apart. Here’s the section I found most significant:
Chick-fil-A’s Corporate Purpose is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” As a result, we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. This decision has been made, and we understand the importance of it. At the same time, we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families. To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles.
On its face, his pledge sounds progressive, but that caveat at the end is telling. What would actually change if they continue to offer those “resources” at the exclusion of LGBT families? Political acts aren’t confined to campaign donations.
Being a vegetarian, it may be easier for me to resist Chick-fil-A’s processed meat sandwiches. But I will admit that their waffle fries are delicious, so don’t think I’m sidestepping this sacrifice completely. I haven’t shopped at Target since it has shown it will say one thing (that it supports LGBT people) and do another (fund anti-gay candidates, even after promising not to). And don’t get me started on Wal-Mart, where I never go. I’m not a rich man, and I feel the pinch of pricier stores and the pain of no waffle fries, but I’m not willing to put any dollars—however few of them—directly against my self-interest or what I believe is right.