Subject: [SocialistWorker.org] Boycotting bigotry at Chick-Fil-A
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Comment: Keegan O'Brien
======== BOYCOTTING BIGOTRY AT CHICK-FIL-A ===================================
Keegan O'Brien reports on the storm of protest against Chick-Fil-A's
August 8, 2012
LYING ABOUT your partner's gender or denying that you even have a partner. No
mentioning of your personal life to co-workers. Disguising your gender
identity from employers and customers. For most countless lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender and queer working people, this describes the
all-too-frequent reality of life in the workplace.
And according to Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy, this--along with a long
list of other forms of discrimination experienced by LGBTQ people--shouldn't
change any time soon.
In an interview several weeks ago, Cathy proudly declared that he was "guilty
as charged" in his opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples, his
commitment to "traditional family values" and his company's financial support
for prominent anti-LGBTQ organizations. In the past several years,
Chick-Fil-A has donated more than $5 million to Focus on the Family, the
Family Research Council, Exodus International and other groups opposed to
Cathy's remarks have ignited a firestorm of controversy and protest.
Activists called for a boycott of the fast-food chain. Boston Mayor Thomas
Menino promised to oppose Chick-Fil-A's attempt to open a restaurant in the
"You called supporters of gay marriage 'prideful,'" Menino wrote in a letter
to Cathy. "Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are 'guilty as
charged.' We are indeed full of pride for our support of same-sex marriage
and our work to expand freedom to all people...There is no place for
discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company
In Chicago, a city council alderman, backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, likewise
began an effort to block a new franchise from opening.
Then came a backlash from the right wing. Former Arkansas Gov. and Republican
presidential candidate Mike Huckabee put out a call for a "Chick-Fil-A
Appreciation Day," claiming he was defending free speech and family values,
not promoting homophobia. With the likes of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh
urging them on, bigots nationwide flocked to their local Chick-Fil-A to show
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation then called for a day of
kiss-ins at Chick-Fil-A to protest homophobia. Thousands of people
participated, drawing attention from the local and national media.
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SOME PEOPLE might wonder whether boycotts and kiss-ins are worth the effort
to oppose the anti-LGBTQ beliefs of one businessman--even if he does have the
support of right-wing blowhards like Palin and Huckabee.
Cathy's personal beliefs are grotesque. But ultimately, the boycott of
Chick-Fil-A isn't limited to his personal opinions. The campaign is
challenging Chick-Fil-A's multimillion-dollar support for right-wing
organizations working to ensure continued second-class citizenship for LGBTQ
Chick-Fil-A's actions have consequences in people's lives. For example, the
federal Defense of Marriage Act--put forward in the mid-1990s by Republicans
with the support of the very groups that Chick-Fil-A contributes to, but also
backed by a majority of Democrats in Congress and signed into law by Bill
Clinton--narrowly defines marriage as an institution between a man and a
women, thereby denying same-sex couples more than 1,000 benefits and rights.
Thirty-one states have constitutional amendments banning legal recognition of
same-sex marriage. In 30 states, LGBTQ people can be fired for their sexual
orientation or gender identity, and they have no legal recourse whatsoever.
Annually, thousands of LGBTQ youth are kicked out of their homes, LGBTQ teens
are murdered by suicide and an epidemic of anti-LGBTQ bullying and violence
grips U.S. schools.
All of these injustices are consequences of the political influence of
organizations like Focus on the Family, with their corporate backers such as
Chick-Fil-A. The campaign in response to Cathy's public bigotry has exposed
Chick-Fil-A for what it is--a company that promotes hate and homophobia.
Plus there is a broader question than corporate sponsorship for
institutionalized homophobia and transphobia. Why do we live under a
political system where it's legal for a big corporation to wield such
powerful influence over social, political and economic policies?
Chick-Fil-A's unapologetic attitude toward corporate control over U.S.
politics should disturb anyone concerned with a democracy "of, by and for the
Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin claim that those who protest Chick-Fil-A are
violating Dan Cathy's freedom of speech. But I'm far more concerned with the
same-sex couples unable to access the benefits of marriage, the lesbian or
trans person who is unable to come out in their workplace, the queer teen who
sleeps homeless in the streets, the gay high school student who struggles to
survive the violence of bullying, and the many LGBT youth victimized by
suicide. I care about the quality of life for LGBTQ people, not Cathy's right
to make their lives more miserable.
Every inch of freedom and equality that LGBTQ people enjoy today is the
direct result of past struggles for social justice. The words of Dr. Martin
Luther King are as true today as they were over 40 years ago: "Change does
not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous
struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man
can't ride you unless your back is bent."
It's time for us to straighten our backs and fight. Protesting Chick-Fil-A is
an important struggle of today that has the potential to bring us one step
closer to a more just and equal society for everyone, across the gender and
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