Ahhh! The Chick-fil-A debacle seems to be over. Now we can look back and perform a proper post-mortem of how and why both sides behaved the way they did, and whether those reactions were helpful, harmful, or mattered at all in the end.
Just in case you missed the whole thing, here’s the backstory. Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, a fast food joint with pickles as the secret chicken-flavor enhancing ingredient, decided to publicly weigh in on his company’s stance when it comes to the sanctity of marriage on the Ken Coleman radio show.
“As it relates to society in general, 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,’” Cathy said. “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.”
Even though Cathy’s comments are reprehensible and his blatant bigotry is eye-opening (but expected from the Christian Right), he had every right to say these things.
He also has every right to pursue the growth of his company in any market where he sees money-making potential, including the cities that told him he wouldn’t be allowed to open stores in.
When mayors of prominent cities such as Thomas Menino in Boston and Rahm Emanuel in Chicago decide to flex their political muscle and disenfranchise or threaten the well-being of a bigot like Cathy, they do a disservice to their office and their constituents.
They also undermine the bigger issue. In proclaiming their intentions of keeping Chik-fil-A out of their cities, they move the goalposts of the argument to one of free speech and out of the realm of second-classing our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.
Citizens should be able to affect the change they believe. These choices should not be the exclusive provenance of overzealous mouth-breathing politicians, who pander to the base human emotions that we respond with when confronted by the smug level of self-righteous hate that Cathy exudes.
The proper response should have been one of educating the populace about Chick-fil-A’s corporate donations, and using this information to help shape a proper boycott.
According to Equality Matters, a fact-checking organization that supports LGBT initiatives, Chick-fil-A donated $2 million to various anti-gay organizations in 2010 alone. Some of these recipients of corporate hate-money believe in “curing” homosexuality, promote the definition of marriage as between a man and woman, and condemn homosexual sex as somehow being impure and/or sinful.
In the case of The Family Research Council (FRC), Equality Matters points out Chick-fil-A’s donation of $1000. The FRC advocated against the congressional condemnation of the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill. While this is a small pittance in the grand scheme of hate-money Chik-fil-A has thrown around, it speaks volumes about where a consumer’s money eventually gets filtered to.
This is where a boycott campaign could have a bigger effect. If more people were aware of Chik-fil-A’s true stance and the byproduct of their corporate donations from corporate profits, they may be inclined to forego buying a mediocre piece of fried chicken on a buttered bun with pickles.
Instead of this productive and positive response, we devolved into a free speech argument when the governments of Chicago and Boston tried to unconstitutionally intervene by declaring their cities as Chick-fil-A-free zones.
The result was a maddening display of willful ignorance and organized hate. On the pro-Chick-fil-A side we got a fun family-friendly day of supporting Chick-fil-A by buying their plumped up chicken sandwiches in support of free speech. Their free speech meant “fuck the gays,” and not in the fun way.
On the pro-LGBT side, we had a weak attempt at solidarity by holding mass kiss-ins—and by mass I mean miniscule, ineffective and ultimately kind of silly. Let us also not forget the outliers of stupid protest like the vandalism in Torrance and the arrogant-mouthed YouTube protester berating the poor drive-in Chick-fil-A employee.
It’s as if both sides devolved into a pile of self-flagellating stupid. No salient points were made, and we are back where we started.
The bottom line is that we, as informed consumers, have the ability to affect the change our society needs. The anti-homosexual bigots are in their pathetic death throes, and the more enlightened of us can both drag and guide them kicking and screaming into the future.