We Didn’t Invent the (Gay) Chicken Sandwich

I’ve always hated when people preface anything they say with phrases like “I’m not racist but…” or “I don’t support them but….”  Typically anything following such statements is going to prove that the speaker is, in fact, racist or in support of or whatever they claim they are not.  However, I’ve become comfortable with the fact that in some cases this type of fore-warning is not only acceptable but necessary.  Unfortunately this is one of those times.  Those of you who know me or have read any of my previous writings on related subjects know that I am a supporter of marriage equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.  So I preface this posting by saying: I am not opposed to gay marriage. I am not opposed to anyone’s right to oppose those who are opposed to gay marriage.

Whew, good to have that out of the way. Now, on to the actual point.

Chick-Fil-A sells chicken.  And lemonade and brownies and waffle fries and milkshakes.  These are the things for which people turn to Chick-Fil-A.  If you have been going to a fast food restaurant for moral guidance, political convictions or any other type of guidance other than “get fat,” you’re misunderstanding the fundamental reason fast food restaurants have to exist. Nobody goes to Burger King for advice on how to live their lives, am I right? Do you?

My issue arises from the overwhelming public response to the stance that Chick-Fil-A’s CEO took recently, in speaking for the values on which the company was built and operates.  First, let us keep in mind that his/their stance is opposition to gay marriage.  There was no talk of turning away anybody from their services or from benefiting from the services provided by the myriad other, non-anti-gay charities to which the company contributes millions of dollars annually.  I fully understand why people hate this.  I understand why some people will never eat at Chick-Fil-A again.  All I hope that people understand is that if you start to boycott every company that takes any kind of stance against any issue that you support, you’re going to run out of options really quickly.

Second, while there is no doubt (and it’s no secret) that Chick-Fil-A has contributed to established anti-gay groups, remember that they also donate millions of dollars every year to other charities.  I won’t even begin to defend their questionable contributions, and bring this up only to make a simple point: lots of companies give lots of money to lots of charities.  Are you going to boycott every single one of them because they may give a tiny pittance to a group you don’t support? Likewise, would you boycott because they cease support to a cause you DO support?  Remember when Target decided the Salvation Army could no longer have their Christmas-time bell ringers outside Target stores?  If you’re a Salvation Army supporter, did you stop shopping at Target? Did you boo-hoo their obvious hatred for charity? Or did you do a little research and find out that they give roughly $2 million a week to other charities?

Oh hey, TARGET! That’s right, their CEO made some contributions to an anti-gay political candidate! Uproar? Hullabulloo? Ruckus? Not so much. So what makes Chick-Fil-A so different.  Sure, the money.  They contributed quite a bit larger amount that Target’s CEO, but that’s a ridiculous point.  You can’t argue in opposition based on the AMOUNT of the contribution, only on the principle of the contribution itself.

While we’re on the subject of principles, let’s talk about Wal-Mart for a second.  Why? Wal-Mart is known for its evil. But keep in mind that they’re also the single largest contributor to charities in the United States.  In 2010 Wal-Mart donated almost $320 million to various charities.  Guess what they were doing at the same time: firing gay employees and getting away with it. Uproar? Hullabulloo? Ruckus? Meh, not so much.

Can I get a little hipster on your faces for a second? Thanks. Urban Outfitters isn’t into supporting gay rights, and not just because folks failed to see the obvious irony in selling Robert Mapplethorpe t-shirts.  Folks have been able to put aside this little issue because, you know UO is cool and they probably didn’t really mean it.  I mean, it’s not like they do this stuff all the time. Except that they do.

As a matter of fact, lots of companies make lots of donations to lots of groups and individuals who either do not support or actively oppose gay rights.  Let’s face it folks, this is a hot-button issue and there’s really no way to please everybody.  Just ask JCPenney.  They took a pretty admirable stance in support of gay rights, and conservative groups attacked them.  And their attackers have no problem telling us all why they’re right and JCPenney is wrong.  (note: I hate that a Google metric somewhere just notched up some ad revenue because of the fact that I visited that horrible NOM blog.)

Finally, let’s discuss Boston.  Thomas Menino, the Mayor of Boston wrote a delightful letter to Chick-Fil-A today laying out the reasons why Boston does not want anti-gay boogeyman chicken salesmen in their city.  Naturally, Bostonians are not the easiest people to speak for, and it didn’t take long for some to voice their opposition to the Mayor’s stance.  The Boston Globe posted an editorial today in an attempt to remind the Mayor that he is not in any position to overrule the First Amendment rights of Chick-Fil-A’s CEO.

My questions for Mayor Menino are these:

  1. Who are you to speak on behalf of Bostonians who may agree with Chick-Fil-A? (I assure you, there are some.)
  2. When will you be issuing cease-and-desist letters to ALL companies and business with view in opposition to yours?
  3. Unless your city’s unemployment rate has suddenly hit zero (it hasn’t), why would you take an active stance against a company that may want to come in and give people jobs?

Pro-gay or anti-gay, these are constitutional and just plain economic issues.

In conclusion, I’m not anti-gay anything.  At all.  I hope that after all of this you’ve kept that in mind.  A friend mentioned online today that political discourse in our generation has been reduced to “liking” memes and idiotic Facebook posts.  Remember that I’ve tried to contribute some serious points to this discussion when your own knee-jerk reaction is to call me an insensitive ass.

Feel free to post intelligent comments below.

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