This summer may be remembered, not as the summer of the London Olympics, nor the summer of aberrant weather and unrelenting drought, but the summer of the gay-bashing chicken. Let me explain: There is not a chicken out there taking out his/her aggression on this country’s gay and lesbian population. This has to do with the hugely successful Atlanta-based fast food chain by the name of Chick-Fil-A.
A few weeks back the Baptist family who owns Chick-Fil-A, particularly the son, Dan T. Cathy, of the company’s founder, came out very publicly against the issue of same-sex marriage. In a radio interview Cathy said in reference to the shifts in same-sex marriage, “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.’ ” Chick-Fil-A, long known for their Southern-fried chicken sandwiches, is also a company known as an ardent contributor and supporter of “traditional marriage.” However this ill-timed and somewhat intolerant comment was not well received and has resulted in several protests, boycotts, and political actions against the fast food company. The mayor of Boston wrote a condemning open letter to the organization and even the Muppets came forth with support for marriage equality, directly referencing the Chick-Fil-A uproar. But there has also been a support campaign mounted for Chick-Fil-A and their owners, which includes such high-profile figures as Rick Santorum (no surprise there) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to declare Aug. 1 as Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. And just yesterday I received an email from a group called Project 21 black leadership network that has vouched to support the embattled fast food chain and come out in force for the August 1st Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.
Now to be sure, none of this is really about chicken, it’s not even about food. It is just another chosen battleground for our current culture war, populated on both sides by very passionate advocates for whatever it is they believe. There is little doubt that the U.S. is (albeit slowly) moving toward observing some form of marriage equality, and that flare-ups like this do more to mobilize, and often polarize, individuals toward the cause. But is the arena of fast food quite the place for these ideological discussions? Does it cheapen the cause? Would it be OK, or even imaginable, for business owners to come out either in favor or in opposition to marriage equality without inviting backlash of some sort, just as long as there was no discrimination in effect?