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The Gray Lady Notes LGBT Frustration with Chick-fil-A’s Anti-Gay Behavior

January 31, 2011

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.

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    January 31, 2011 9:23 pm

    And you should not spend money at a place you have bad feelings about, however, for me I’ll be having lunch there tomorrow and then stop by Target on the way home!

    • January 31, 2011 10:38 pm

      Hi Mike. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion and to fund the causes you believe in. I can’t quite tell from your response whether you don’t feel your wallet holds any sway over these corporations, or if you’re eager to support these sorts of causes.

      If it’s the former, I’d encourage you to think harder about how you want your money to be spent. If it’s the latter, I hope someday you’ll reconsider your ignorance.

      • Robert permalink
        February 1, 2011 12:14 am

        Geoff, you are certainly entitled to your opinions and I myself will not call you ignorant for believing what you believe. Choice is a tricky concept and having the ability to make choices due to a level of freedom we enjoy at this time in America can upset alot of people that do not like the choice other people make. I would not suppose to try to convince you that being gay is a choice you should reconsider as that would be saying to you that you are, pick a metapher, evil, confused, mistaken, blah blah blah. You make your choices and should not be attacked because of them. So do not attack others for their choices. Maybe try to explain why you disagree with them but to call them ignorant does nothing to sway them. While I have gay friends, my position on gay issues has only moderated over time. Were they to call me names that were insulting because of my opinions, I doubt we would be friends anymore. Probably why a lot of my former friends are fond of the insults teabagger, extremist, nazi when a political subject came up. Have a good evening.

        • February 1, 2011 12:31 am

          Hi Robert,

          I appreciate your comment and the civil tone you’re taking; it’s a welcome change from some of my other commenters. The issue of choice that you bring up is key, I think, to understanding the situation.

          I certainly didn’t choose to fall in love with the person I did, but people who actively campaign against LGBT rights aren’t born activists or hating others. They have to make a conscious choice to fight against the rights of couples who want to marry (DOMA), able people who want to work ( DADT and the resistance to ENDA), and LGBT individuals who are just looking to live their lives in countless other situations.

          We aren’t able to opt out of this battle, but they are. There wouldn’t be any cultural friction if people would stop telling us how to live our lives and simply let us enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.

          I do understand that confrontation isn’t always the best approach, and I agree gentle nudging works best on people who simply aren’t familiarized with the issue. But if someone is going to visit a gay blog and write about how they want to go rush out and support anti-gay corporations, they’re looking for a fight. I’m not inclined to give them one, and I don’t want to block their comments (I save that for the really awful stuff), so I feel obliged to respond to their comments. And honestly, “ignorant” is the most polite word I could come up with to describe the points of view they expressed.

        • Shep permalink
          February 1, 2011 1:46 am

          “You make your choices and should not be attacked because of them. So do not attack others for their choices.”

          You must recognize there’s a fundamental difference between choosing to be true to yourself, as gay people are, and choosing to marginalize a minority, as anti-gay rights people are. Don’t pretend like what one chooses to do with one’s love life and attempting to interfere with the love lives of everyone who doesn’t feel attracted to the “right” gender are in any way equivalent.

          Take one minute and really try to picture being told that it’s wrong for you to be attracted to everyone you’ve ever been attracted to. Imagine being told that it’s not acceptable to be with the person who makes your heart swell and your life complete because of some religion you don’t believe in. Imagine being told you should never love because others find your choice “immoral”.

          Seriously, answer me: would you be okay with that? And if you say “no”, tell me why it’s acceptable to pretend that it’s not okay for gay people to be not okay with that treatment.

  2. Sylvi permalink
    January 31, 2011 10:56 pm

    I’m sorry that you’ll be missing your waffle fries, Geoff.

    That having been said, my good little Berkeley food snob self is more than a little tickled to learn that the Art of Marriage folks are stuck with crappy chicken sandwiches at their crappy conference. The preservatives and hormones alone will probably reduce their life spans by a good five years. It sounds like the two are a perfect match!

    I’m far less tickled to learn the bad news about Target (although, frankly, not that surprised). Another one bites the dust…

    • January 31, 2011 10:59 pm

      Not to worry, Sylvi! I’ve known about Chick-fil-A’s outlook and have been avoiding them for a while. They were never part of my routine—more of an unwise food court option—so I’m well rid of them!

  3. January 31, 2011 11:29 pm

    Yawn… who cares if you don’t spend your money at walmart, chick filet or target. I don’t think you matter. They are doing just fine without your money. And will continue to do so funded by the over 90% of Americans who couldn’t care less about your agenda. Since I read your comments about these companies i have decided i will spend my money at these companies and I wouldn’t have even thought to do so before. So thanks for the suggestion. You have accomplished nothing.
    I am actually glad there are some companies that don’t let you get your way. get over it. That is life. We don’t always get our way in life, and most of us don’t have to boycott to make ourselves feel usefull.

    • January 31, 2011 11:49 pm

      JK, if you really find this all “meaningless,” why are you commenting at all? Chick-fil-A is attracting a lot of bad press, and the already large segment of the population that values equal rights for everyone is growing every day. If your views don’t put you in the minority yet, they will soon.

      I appreciate your leaving this comment (which you can note I had to actively approve). You display perfectly why this is about more than a company providing an event with sandwiches or sponsoring a retreat. I’m confident that my readers will be more inclined to consider their money when they see the bitterness and senseless antipathy you’ve expressed.

    • Jeff permalink
      February 1, 2011 12:01 am

      JK, but for the power of the boycott, the sit-in, and similar public non-violent forms of protest, no meaningful progress would ever have been made in the womens’ rights or civil rights movements. These actions call attention to practices that large segments of the population (far more than your 10% statistic) find to be hypocritical corporate double-speak and symptomatic of the struggles facing the LGBTQ equality movement. Those of us subjected to active discrimination are entitled to stand up and point out the acts of “unfairness” that you would have us simply “get over.” Discrimination and denial of basic rights is not equivalent to a parking ticket, not getting the biggest cupcake, or not getting to use the swings – “getting [our] way” simply doesn’t apply.

      You are of course free to patronize the businesses you wish, and if their corporate ethos matches yours, feel free to reward them with your continued patronage. I, however, have given up chicken sandwiches with pickles until changes occur.

    • Shep permalink
      February 1, 2011 1:53 am

      hm, some guy cares that he’s a second-class citizen. i find this amusing from my position of privilege. i see no reason to be concerned that my position has historically proven to be found unconscionable by future generations. introspection is bullshit.

      i’m glad there are companies out there willing to marginalize a minority. this is something i honestly believe and am clearly not saying just to get a rise out of the site’s author. oh shit, better throw some stuff in there about how much i don’t care. yup yup yup, don’t care, just came here to post how much i don’t care. no one will see through this, phew!

  4. Frank permalink
    February 1, 2011 12:08 am

    Hurrah for Chick-fil-a for taking a stand for morality!

    • February 1, 2011 12:11 am

      It seems our definitions of “morality” differ dramatically, Frank. Yours appears to be that espoused by right-wing politicians, who say majority opinion makes right, while I believe equality doesn’t need to be popular to be morally justified.

    • Shep permalink
      February 1, 2011 2:00 am

      Yay, morality! Being gay is immoral because

      because

      because The Bible says it is!! Jesus was definitely 100% all about enforcing your religion on others through law and interfering with love whenever possible! Hooray for The Bible (but not the parts about stoning your children to death or not eating seafood, those don’t count because

  5. anonymous permalink
    February 1, 2011 12:26 am

    Agh, It’s like sixth grade all over again in here. Spiteful as hell.

    As big a fan as I am of delicious, delicious meaty foodstuffs, I’ll pass on going to Chick-fil-A again. I’ll give my family the word, too. It’s okay — I like In-N-Out better anyways, and I haven’t seen any evidence that their ideals extend beyond treating their staff and customers with respect and putting a bible verse or two on my milkshake cup. :I

  6. February 1, 2011 2:35 am

    I will still be eating at Chick-fil-A. I love the fact that they actually close their stores on Sundays so their employees can be home with their families to worship or sit on their asses all day. It is a concept not many will do because it comes down to money. You do what you have to so you feel better about how you perceive you are being treated in life. We all have our issues in public and behind closed doors. Most of us just deal with them on our own and try to live life the best we can. Good luck with everything else.

    • February 1, 2011 11:08 am

      Ro, I have nothing against stores closing on Sunday and I’m all for treating employees with dignity. I just wish those corporations would treat me the same way.

      Yes, everyone faces challenges, but few groups are so maliciously and mercilessly persecuted and vilified as the LGBT community. We don’t have the luxury of not paying attention to what’s going on or of not thinking what causes our dollars fund.

    • Shep permalink
      February 1, 2011 11:54 am

      Hi Ro,

      I’m curious about what you mean by “most of us just deal with [issues] on our own”. It sounds like you’re suggesting that the GLBT community could produce legally-recognized marriages through sheer grit and determination, without having to bother anyone in the government about it.

      Pretend the situation was reversed — pretend that homosexuality was the norm. Would you suddenly be gay? No, of course not. You would still be attracted to the same people that you’re currently attracted to. Now go one step further and pretend that homosexuals actively fought to deny you the right to marry the opposite sex, to build a stable family life. Would you honestly be fine without the right to marry, just because someone else’s religion declared it immoral? All you want are the legal tools to build a stable family life, which can only benefit society, but you’re denied the right to marry to love because you belong to a minority. Would you really, truly tell yourself to just deal with it? To do _nothing_, not even patronize a different restaurant, to improve your status as a second-class citizen?

      The fact of the matter is that there are active opponents of gay rights, and you can’t pretend that pro-gay rights people should just sit back and let them win, because it’s better that they learn to “deal” with being second-class citizens instead of daring to make ripples in society. This is a clear human rights issue — is your stance honestly that human rights violations shouldn’t be fought? That “just dealing with it”, just letting the violation continue, is somehow the morally superior option?

  7. Christy permalink
    February 1, 2011 1:28 pm

    Most christians are against the government when they want to take prayer out of school, or take down religious postings in court houses. But, they don’t mind when the govt. forces their religon into the gay marriage ban. You can’t have it both ways. Everyone has a right to believe what they want. If everyone would quit trying to force others to live by their beliefs, religious or otherwise, it would be a better country. After all this is a free country isn’t it? Don’t Americans have the right to pursue happiness?
    As for Chik-Fil-A, I love their food. I won’t persecute them for their beliefs, just like I won’t persecute all my gay friends for believing in the right to be married.

    • Shep permalink
      February 1, 2011 2:29 pm

      I agree with nearly everything you say, but:

      “As for Chik-Fil-A, I love their food. I won’t persecute them for their beliefs, ”

      Not patronizing a business is not “persecution”. Denying someone a basic human right is persecution.

      • Christy permalink
        February 2, 2011 9:33 am

        That is true Shep. Maybe I used the wrong word. I just believe that everyone has a right to their beliefs. I have a lot of friends. Some are Catholic, some Jewish, some are Repulican. I don’t always agree with theer beliefs but, I’m still gonna be friends with them. I may try to change their minds about certain beliefs though.

        • Shep permalink
          February 2, 2011 7:47 pm

          Hi Christy,

          Yeah, I was just picking on that one choice of word. I think everything else was said very well, but I wanted to be sure you were saying what you really wanted to say.

        • Bearfoot permalink
          May 9, 2011 10:21 am

          Woah woah woah woah woah!

          “Everyone has the right to their beliefs?”

          really..?

          what if I believe, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, that blacks are subhumans, barely above the apes?

          Or what if I believe that prostitutes should be stoned to death?

          Or that the Jews are the key to an ancient conspiracy and secretly run the world?

          Are those views OK?

          I’m all for equality, being bisexual. What I am again is discrimination and stupidity. God made me the way he made me, for these people to say that I am sinning and evil because of something I can’t control only shows their intolerance and hatred.

        • May 9, 2011 11:16 am

          I agree there are certainly views I (and most others) find abhorrent, but freedom of speech cuts both ways.

          I don’t think people should say hateful/racist/etc. things, but they do have the right to, and I certainly wouldn’t deny anyone the right to hold an opinion. There are certainly plenty of people who would categorize this blog as “harmful,” and I’m very thankful they’re not allowed to silence me.

  8. Michael Holcombe permalink
    February 1, 2011 1:42 pm

    I am gay and I asure you I had no “choice”. The choice argument sickens my stomache. If you say i chose to be gay, then at some point everyone must choose their sexuality. So, when did you choose to not be gay and be straight? If you are saying homosexuality is a choice, then by logic, it must be a choice for everyone. So I can then ascertain that everyone is attracted to both sexes and at some point we must make a conscious choice for which side of the road we choose to walk on. You have no idea what it is like to grow up being gay, to know you are different and to also know, instinctively, you cannot tell anyone else about your true feelings. God made me, just as he made you, so quit telling me about “choices” I have made, you have no idea what you are talking about.

  9. bob permalink
    February 1, 2011 2:45 pm

    you end your column with this: , but I’m not willing to put any dollars—however few of them—directly against my self-interest or what I believe is right.

    But isn’t that what the lgbt is looking for. to force a company to donate to what they do not beleive in. criminal

    I could find a bazillion “SPECIAL INTEREST” groups looking for a free lunch, just let me know when you want to pick up the tab and we will be right over. it is specail interest groups that are bringing this country to its knees.

    • February 1, 2011 2:50 pm

      I think you missed the point, Bob. I’m not “forcing” companies to do anything, just choosing where to spend my money. That’s my right and hardly “criminal.” And I never said I’d only patronize companies that make pro-LGBT donations, only that I avoid ones that do the opposite.

  10. Nick permalink
    February 2, 2012 4:02 pm

    I don’t understand why you think Chick-fil-A is anti-gay for two reasons.
    1. I don’t recall corporate Chick-fil-A ever saying that they were anti-gay. So they catered to a conference which was supposedly “anti-gay” that doesn’t make the company themselves anti-gay. If a terrorist came into the store with a coupon and got a free chicken sandwich would that make Chick-fil-A a terrorist organization? Of course not.
    2. Even if they are against gay marriage, that does not mean they are against gay people. That’s a very important distinction to make. As the mantra goes “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

    • February 2, 2012 4:52 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Nick! I’m always happy to explain my positions.

      1. I don’t think cashing a coupon is comparable to holding a sponsored event. Coupons aren’t directed at any one group, and I don’t think anyone would suggest that they be restricted. But by actively sponsoring an anti-gay event, Chick-fil-A has expressed a support for denying the rights of same-sex couples. It’s much more similar to them sponsoring another type of event–I imagine anyone could see why it was offensive if a company were to sponsor a racist or sexist event, or one that targeted a religious minority. For instance, a restaurant would certainly get bad PR if they provided free food to a group opposing interracial marriage.

      2. I don’t think I can agree on this point. The very idea that an integral, undeniable part of who I am is somehow “sinful” certainly isn’t within my beliefs. Other people are welcome to believe what they wish, but that doesn’t meant they have the right to impose those religious values on others. You’ll notice that plenty of other “sins” are perfectly legal, even if churches refuse to recognize them (i.e. divorce).

  11. November 1, 2012 10:17 am

    Hello, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your website in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has
    some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, wonderful blog!

    • November 3, 2012 3:47 pm

      I’m glad you like it, Darren! It’s been on hiatus since I started law school last year, but I left in up in the hopes people like you would still find and enjoy it.

      I’m sorry to hear you’re having issues with IE. It looks fine on my computer, though–can you tell me which version and which operating system you’re using?

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