Tag Archives: Dan Cathy

Why Did Chick-fil-A Cross the Road? Because Being Anti-Gay is Bad for Business

19 Sep

I have a rule. If everyone else is writing about something, I’m more than likely not going to write about it – unless three straight friends personally email me about it. So here it is-

Chicago Alerman Proco “Joe” Moreno made headlines a few months ago when he vowed to block the anti-gay fast food chain, Chick-fil-A from building its second Chicago store. People screamed about the corporation’s right to free speech, etc and attacked Moreno and other lawmakers who were vowing similar challenges. And while legally, no lawmaker can just decide someone can’t do business because of their beliefs – there are other ways of legislatively challenging new businesses from opening. These include discriminatory employment practices among other things. Point being, nothing ever happened and no one stopped any Chick-fil-A’s from selling their horrifically unhealthy chicken sandwiches.

One thing that needs to be made clear here – the reason gay people were up in arms about Chick-fil-A had very little to do with CEO Dan Cathy’s remarks regarding his anti-equality view on marriage. The tremors were caused by Chick-fil-A contributing more than $5 million to virulently anti-gay groups over the past several years. Some of those groups have even been linked to Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill which would mean life in prison and in some cases, execution for being gay. It even went so far as to punish those who didn’t report friends and family for being gay.

Flash forward, dozens of anti-gay groups have now hosted anti-gay “Chick-fil-A Days” and other homophobic actions supporting the chain. One anti-gay group has even gone so far as to declare every Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Day.”

Now it appears through several talks, Alderman Moreno has made some headway with the higher-ups and is declaring victory. It seems Chick-fil-A has agreed to stop funding these anti-gay groups and has sent around an internal memo to all franchisees and stakeholders that says the company must “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.”

This is quite clearly a win for us and proves that being anti-gay is bad for business. While we will have to wait to see their tax returns which disclose the groups they contribute to, and while Dan Cathy made a similar claim in January of 2011 that Chick-fil-A and their charitable arm, Winshape will “not champion any political agendas on marriage and family,” I think this is most definitely a win.

Upon revisitation, there are still quite a few things left up in the air that I want to caution about before we run back for our waffle fries:

  • This agreement was made between a Chicago politician and Chick-fil-A’s Director of Real Estate. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of clout a Director of Real Estate might have with regards to Chick-fil-A’s employment or giving practices.
  • The policy that’s being touted as a success is their philosophy that they don’t give to groups with political agendas is one that has been in place since the company was founded – what’s making them stick to that philosophy now and who at Chick-fil-A does the deciding on what is or is not a group with a political agenda.
  • Finally, No one at Chick-fil-A has corroborated or denied the reports in this press release. Until that happens, stick to KFC.

The full statement from The Civil Rights Agenda:

Chick-fil-A Ceases Anti-gay Donations, Clarifies Stance on

Gay Customers & Employees

September 18, 2012 – Chicago, Illinois – The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), Illinois’ leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights advocacy organization, has learned that Alderman Moreno has finalized his negotiations with Chick-Fil-A.  Alderman Moreno has confirmed that Chick-fil-A will no longer give money to anti-gay organizations and that they have clarified in an internal document that the company will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation. The Civil Rights Agenda worked closely with the Alderman in an advisory role as he negotiated these concessions with the executives at Chick-fil-A.  Additionally, members of TCRA spoke directly with executives at Chick-fil-A during negotiations to aid in educating their decision makers about anti-discrimination policies and issues affecting the LGBT community.

In a letter addressed to Alderman Moreno and signed by Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, it states, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”  Winshape, a non-profit funded by Chick-fil-a, has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups, including some classified as hate groups, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.  In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations.

“We are very pleased with this outcome and thank Alderman Moreno for his work on this issue,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “I think the most substantive part of this outcome is that Chick-fil-A has ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.  It has taken months of discussion, both with our organization and with the Alderman, for Chick-fil-A to come forward with these concessions and we feel this is a strong step forward for Chick-fil-A and the LGBT community, although it is only a step.”

Additionally, they have sent an internal memo to franchisees and stakeholders that states that as a company, they will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender” and that their “intent is not to engage in political or social debates.”  This statement was placed into an official company document called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.”

“Although we are encouraged by their internal statement, we would still like for the company to adopt an anti-discrimination policy at the corporate level,” said Rick Garcia, policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda. “It is one thing for a company to say they respect everyone they serve and employ, it is quite another for them to put that into their policies and demand that all employees adhere to that behavior.  As we have heard from gay employees that work for Chick-fil-A, there is a culture of discrimination within the company and we would like to ensure that employees can speak out and call attention to those practices without fear of reprisal. It takes time to change the culture of any institution and steps like a corporate policy ensure that progress is made.”

What happens when a Broadway star supports Chick-fil-A?

9 Aug

Yesterday, I wrote about Broadway star and Chick-fil-A fan, Bailey Hanks as part of a broader discussion. Today, I feel as though it deserves it’s own post.

Bailey, who was cast to take over the starring role in Broadway’s Legally Blonde following a MTV reality contest, has been playing Elle Woods on the road for years now. While I’m sure she’s a talented young lady, I can’t help but wonder how the presumably dozens of gay people who work with her must feel about her support of an anti-gay corporation.

Yesterday upon finding out she had touted her support for Chick-fil-A on Facebook, I added an image to a piece I’d already been working on about the greater conversation regarding people’s reaction to the whole controversy. I also tweeted my disappointment to Bailey herself. Upon responding that she was a “Proud Christian” and not responding to my questions regarding her support for a company that gave millions to anti-gay hate groups, she quickly blocked her public twitter feed. Additionally, she quickly removed the image she’d posted on Facebook.

While everyone has the right to do and say what they please – it’s still a free country after all – it surprises me to see someone who spends every day surrounded by gay people, yet still believe they don’t deserve the same rights and protections  that she does. It reminds me of the drama surrounding Scott Eckern – the Artistic Director at the Sacramento Music Circus a few years back. Scott had contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign, supporting a California Amendment that would strip LGBT couples of their right to marry. 18,000 couples had already been married at that point and the hateful proposition halted those marriages from happening. I was heavily involved with communications with Scott at the time and Marc Shaiman (composer of Broadway’s Hairspray) and Susan Egan (Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) also played a heavy part in leading the charge against someone who would make all their money because of gay people, but then work to have their rights taken away. In the interest of not damaging the reputation of his organization, Eckern resigned.

And while Bailey Hanks is hardly a household name, her opinion is one that is seen by lots of young gay people. What does it say to a young teen struggling with their identity when they see someone they look up to supporting something so hateful? What does it say to coworkers who are gay when they are working with someone who not only doesn’t believe in their rights to equal protections under the law, but posts it on her Facebook page?

Look, I don’t believe Bailey is a bigot. I think she’s terrifically uninformed and ignorant on the facts.

Bailey – if you’re listening, this is not about someone’s personal beliefs. This is about the fact that Chick-fil-A has given millions to anti-gay groups who are fighting to have gay people put to death in some countries. This is about the groups they support who are working to have homosexuality criminalized here in the U.S.. These are organizations who believe children are better off spending their whole lives in a foster care system instead of having two loving same-sex parents. They spread lies that gay people are child molesters (when every credible study has proven the opposite). They tell people that we are unable to be in committed relationships, that we are trying to harm the church or damaging heterosexual marriage and families. None of these things are true of course, but your words and your support of Chick-fil-A says to your friends, your co-workers and your young gay fans that you believe they are worth less than you. It says that you believe they shouldn’t be allowed to have families. I don’t think that’s what you feel. In my heart of hearts, without even really knowing you, I believe your experience tells you something different.

UPDATE***

It turns out Hanks isn’t completely alone. Broadway performer Wallace Smith (Godspell) also tweeted out his support for Chick-fil-A. While not quite the same ringing endorsement Hanks gave, it’s still troubling to see someone whose lifestyle and career is dependent on the work of LGBT people not coming out against such a bigoted corporation. It seems our out Broadway friends and allies need to step up the education in the community. Your chicken sandwich is not more valuable than the lives of gay people that are threatened in other countries.

UPDATE 2****

Following this same post being published at HuffingtonPost, Bailey started receiving some negative attention on her Twitter account. While some of it was most certainly uncalled for and rude, most people just wanted some kind of reply from her. Instead of replying, Bailey deleted her Twitter account. There may have been something she wrote during all that, but as she’d blocked me yesterday for asking questions, I can’t tell you what she may have written.

On her public Facebook fan page, some people had written very thoughtful replies and requests for an apology from Bailey. To my knowledge, she hasn’t offered any kind of apology and the only real response she has posted has been on her private Facebook page.

As I said above, I didn’t think she was a bigot and I truly believed she just needed some education on the matter. I don’t know that I think that’s true any longer. She has now had several opportunities to offer an apology and instead she has taken to her private Facebook to compare her plight to that of Jesus on the cross. I’m sorry, dear Bailey, but you are no martyr. You ate a chicken sandwich, some waffle fries and a brownie and then put a photo of your food on Twitter so all your gay friends and fans could see that you didn’t believe they deserved the same rights as you. That doesn’t make you a martyr, it makes you a bigot.

What if this whole thing wasn’t about Chick-fil-A at all?

8 Aug

Over the years, corporations have at times been vocal about social issues. It takes courage to take a stand that is sometimes unpopular, but once in a while, a company takes that brave first step.

But a couple weeks ago, something shifted. Something happened that caused all anti-gay hell to break loose. Chick-fil-A‘s CEO came out against marriage equality. For years now, individuals and companies have expressed their opinions and those of us in the equality movement have tried to make it known. JCPenney was boycotted by anti-gay groups when they hired Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson and published a catalog featuring a photo of lesbian moms and their kids. A few people noticed, but it didn’t become a national debate. A list of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 supporters came out. Some people got hysterical and started small boycotts of some companies, but again – it didn’t really wind up on the news.

Then CFA’s CEO Dan Cathy spoke up and told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’” And everyone heard it.

I’ve now waded through tens of thousands of comments on Facebook, talked to dozens of people in real life and one thing has become clear. For some reason, something happened that made people stand up and take notice.

For many people in our community, we have those in our lives who we know might not be the most supportive of equality. For years we’ve gently nudged them and some have even taken great strides. And then there are some who have just remained quiet while we’ve posted things on Facebook about different stories of discrimination – some violent and horrific. But for some reason, this Chick-fil-A thing happens and EVERYONE has an opinion – and not a small-voiced one either.

I made a meme that wound up on George Takei’s Facebook wall. It didn’t mention CFA directly but featured The Muppets’ Kermit and Miss Piggy getting married. The text read: Thank you Jim Henson’s Muppets, Standing Up for Non-Traditional Marriage since 1984. The meme was shared 38,000 times, liked 121,000 times and had more than 3,000 comments.

I’ve found most are from people who are misinformed. Most who stand with Chick-fil-A think this is an issue of “free speech” trying to be squashed. Clearly they don’t have an understanding that free speech happens in both directions. Anyone can say whatever the hell they want. And when they say that thing, they have to be willing to face the consequences. And then the other side has free speech as well – to do things like arrange boycotts if you like, or educate the public.

Many think people are just upset because Dan Cathy expressed his opinion on something and some didn’t like that opinion. Some of us have been working to get the message out there that this is not at all about his opinion on marriage equality, it’s about the millions of CFA dollars he’s spent on anti-gay hate groups. As outlined in an earlier post, he’s given over $5 million to groups that (among many other things) try to cure gay people and fight to have gay people put to death in Uganda.

But back to my original question. What is it about this particular moment in history and this particular story that has caused the masses to speak out?

I was talking to a friend earlier who is not terribly active in the LGBT community. He’s gay and married, but doesn’t frequently post things even slightly political on Facebook. He’s shocked at how many friends he’s seen with bigoted opinions. Some who even came to his wedding. I too have seen many comments on things whose opinion I never knew until now.

Even people like Broadway reality performer Bailey Hanks has taken a side. Normally you would think that someone who spends most of their time surrounded by gay people onstage, offstage, in the audience and more than likely cutting her paychecks, would be supportive. But Bailey posted an image to her personal Facebook page clearly coming out in favor of the bigoted fast food chain.

So what is it? Is this really about Chick-fil-A or did we hit a tipping point where those who’ve secretly hated gay people for years feel like their chicken sandwich is worth more than the lives of their gay friends?

UPDATE******

Just a little update on the status of Bailey Hanks. Shortly after we tweeted the story to her, she replied that she is a “Proud Christian.” I replied and when I looked for a response, I discovered she’d blocked her account. Bailey, if you’re reading this, we just want to know if you believe it is “Christian” for Chick-fil-A to support anti-gay hate groups and if you believe your co-workers deserve the same rights as you do. It’s all we want to know.

Upon a little further research, Bailey also tweeted her love of the anti-gay fast food chain on Chick-fil-A Appreciation day! I guess it wasn’t just about her “dear friend” who works at CFA.

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