Fried Frustration: The Problem with the Chick-Fil-A Outrage

Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy

Like many gays, I’ve been conflicted about how to reconcile my love of both same sex relationships and chicken sandwiches in the wake of Chick-fil-A’s reported anti-gay marriage stance.

My struggle didn’t start in the last few weeks following comments made by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, but years ago when reports of the company contributing money to initiatives deemed anti-gay first surfaced. As I once noted in a blog entry about the issue: The company never lied to me about who they were. I merely needed to decide if I wanted to keep spending my money there.

That’s a right that everyone has, though I am bit bothered at how the debate is currently being framed.

Dan Cathy’s inference that those who support marriage equality possess “prideful, arrogant attitude” made me wince, though I do feel there is an irony in so many of the responses to Chick-fil-A being just as sanctimonious as the sanctified folks under attack. I’ve seen far too many branding the company as a “hate group” full of bigots.

If you want to talk about pulling back funds from corporations with ultra-conservative viewpoints and the money to push them onto the masses, there is quite a lengthy list of companies that span several facets of our daily lives.

I’d love for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to take a glance at it considering his recent pledge to ban Chick-fil-A from Boston. According to him, “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.” 

No offense, Bostonians, but Boston at the forefront of inclusion? Hardy har har har.

Meanwhile, I completely understand why the Jim Henson Company would part ways with Chick-fil-A, and love that they took money from the company and donated it to GLAAD. Still, they didn’t brand them as a “hate group” – an example maybe more ought to follow.

They are not a hate group. As Jonathan Merritt mentioned in a piece for The Atlantic, Chick-fil-A “funds a large foster care program, several schools of a higher learning, and a children's camp” in addition to scholarships for its employees.

The company itself said in a recent statement: "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect –- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

We don’t need a tit-for-tat on who’s the bigger bigot. We need dialogue.

I can say confidentially that a Chick-fil-A employee has never mistreated me. I’ve seen plenty of people of various shades, orientations and the like been treated on equal footing at their location in Hollywood. They might not want me to get married, but I’ve never had the urge to strangle one of their servers the way I have at Popeye’s.

Perhaps I am a bit more sympathetic to Chick-fil-A because their opinions on homosexuality and gay marriage don’t really differ much from the closet members of my family. I used to maintain a 'you’re with me or against me' attitude as to how to handle the conflict, but I’ve since I’ve come to the realization that in many cases nuance goes a lot further in debates regarding social issues than instant condemnation and ostracizing.

Dan Cathy’s attitude is based on a selective interpretation of the Bible. Instead of people with louder megaphones than mine hurling out insults, I wish someone would have politely asked him what pray tell is the “traditional marriage” and “biblical definition of the family unit” that he speaks of?

One could easily argue to the Bible literalist of convenience that by his own terms, he should be in support of polygamy, dowries, sleeping with one’s sister-in-law, and a whole host of things I’m sure he’d condemn if the question were posed in another context.

Same for Cathy’s claims that gay marriage is some sort of result of us not giving God enough gratitude or his problem with the government defining marriage as if that’s not the way it is and has been forever now.

Maybe hitting the illogical with logic won’t immediately change their point of view, but I do find it more successful as a means to challenge to their beliefs than alternate ways that only make them defensive and subsequently emboldened as others jump in. Sort of like Mike Huckabee declaring August 1 “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" in protest against “bigots.”

We don’t need a tit-for-tat on who’s the bigger bigot. We need dialouge.

Much of this divide is generational anyway as even young conservatives are coming out to fight for marriage equality. I wouldn't be surprised if the younger members of the Cathy family are less vehemently opposed to gay marriage than Dan Cathy is. But whatever luck people have in changing the minds of the Dan Cathys of the world, it all begins with the right attitude and approach.

Michael