Equally Worthy


                                                            A HEARTFELT RESPONSE TO THE CHICK-FIL-A DEBATE

I wasn’t going to say any more about Chick-Fil-A. I really wasn’t. But last night, I saw a friend from the college days like a post that a gay person had written on Chick-Fil-A’s wall in support of the company. It had almost a half million likes, and was the second such well-liked comment I had seen in the last week. Then today, I saw yet another news article (http://bottomline.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/08/13165788-chicken-or-coffee-gay-marriage-or-no-when-companies-take-sides?lite ) that reinforced what many had been led to belief when a branding expert said, “he wasn’t hateful about it. He just said this was what he thinks. But his organization welcomes all people.”

I want to emphasize this was never about what Dan Cathy said (and boy am I tried of saying this, but the above shows the message is not yet getting through). Did it add fuel to the fire? Sure. But it was the company’s donations to anti-gay hate groups that initiated the protests. According to a 2011 report, “its charitable division has provided more than $1.1 million to organizations that deliver anti-LGBT messages and promote egregious practices like reparative therapy that seek to "free" people of being gay.”  (http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201103220005)

This isn’t just about equal marriage rights. Take a look at the description of one group Chick-Fil-A donated to: Family Research Council. The description on Southern Poverty Law Center’s website says: “The FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. (emphasis added; http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/family-research-council) .

Then there’s Exodus International, which Truth Wins Out describes as having a lot of double-talk about “loving” gay people, despite the fact that “Exodus has a television show on the Christian Sky Angel network, where they repeatedly berate GLBT life as ‘perverse’ and ‘sexual brokenness.’” (http://www.truthwinsout.org/ministry-exodus-international/). It’s also worth emphasizing yet again this was indeed the profits of Chick-Fil-A. Some would even argue that the donation, however small, was a form of hate speech thanks to a 2010 Supreme Court ruling. (http://alise-write.com/chick-fil-a-and-hate-speech/). 

“But what did their employees do to you?!” This is missing the point (which sadly, heterosexual equality supporter Adam Smith and certain others also missed). For most of us, this has nothing to do with the customer service or what anyone that works there believes. It is about where our money is spent. Chick-Fil-A might have amazing chicken sandwiches, might have wonderfully accepting service (I agree the employee Smith ambushed deserves a raise!) –yet I still wouldn’t want to eat there knowing my money, even a small percent of it, would be going to hate groups that persecute people like me.

And that is what really bothers me when I see friends liking the comments supporting Chick-Fil-A. I would never de-friend someone that wanted to keep eating there because they enjoy the service and food at Chick-Fil-A. But when I see comments like “it’s just a sandwich” or “don’t target the employees,” I feel like you are completely missing why some of us are choosing to boycott.  You don’t have to agree with it, but you should at least respect that I have a valid reason to care about where my money is spent.  And though I wouldn’t care if you chose to eat there, I do care that you keep slapping me in the face with your ignorance about this issue.

I’m not sure that this will get to the people that need to see it. The politicians that lean right & their pundits have made this into a different issue: (http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/08/01/622861/chick-fil-a-and-the-conservative-appropriation-of-christianity-as-an-anti-gay-wedge/ ). Let me make it clear that those of us supporting this, on a whole, are NOT anti-Christian (nor is President Obama, for that matter, who for the record is a Christian and not a Muslim (http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/muslim.asp) , not that it’d matter to me if he were but worth pointing out since it matters to many of you). 

And though a couple leaders’ support was misguided, liberals in general also support a business’ right to open in any city, to be closed on Sundays if they wish, and to speak their mind. We are intolerant of hate groups, thus watching where our money goes. We are not intolerant of Chick-Fil-A as an entity in itself (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-peron/chick-fil-a_b_1715548.html). Nor are we at war with Christians. It’s funny, when I try googling sources for this, all I find is pundits making claims based on lies and half-truths; I don’t actually find any liberal sites denouncing Christianity (I did find several sites for Christian liberals & democrats; many believe Jesus was a liberal). On a personal level, I’ve seen the importance of faith to my family as my grandmother suffered a mini-stroke, as my mom battled cancer, and much more. I’d never want to take that away from anyone. And many of us just showed support for nuns (http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/09/13198880-were-with-you-sisters-nuns-amazed-by-outpouring-of-support?lite).

True, there may have been some comments of spite out there from equality supporters. But if you looked at any news site catering to a GLBTQ demographic and had any sympathy, you might find yourself beginning to fill with spite as well. Just recently, an underground railroad for children of same-sex marriage was encouraged (http://now.msn.com/conservative-pundit-urges-underground-railroad-for-children-of-same-sex-couples); gays were again compared to pedophiles (http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2012/07/noms-religious-liaison-gays-are-unnatural-like-pedophiles-time-for-assault.html);  and hate crimes were allegedly involved in beatings & stabbings in Nebraska, Missouri, California, and D.C., as well as a shooting in Texas – in the summer of 2012 alone.

Some have called this economic bullying. A few bad seeds aside on both sides, I don’t think anyone wants to be a bully (and for anyone that has said they hope an employee chokes on their chicken just for working a job in a tough economy, shame on you). But is it bullying to call out hypocrites? Why are the likes of Huckabee so riled up against this, yet silent on boycotts of JC Penney’s, Amazon, NBC shows, and the like? Meanwhile, Chick-Fil-A employees that largely were innocent in all of this have found themselves stuck in a difficult position, now working for a company whose environment has changed into one that does indeed feel less welcoming. (See what K & Andrew have to say in this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/01/chick-fil-a-anti-gay-controversy-employees-speak-out_n_1729968.html , or read this heartfelt post (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/02/a-gay-chick-fil-a-employee-speaks-out.html ). By the way, it’s no coincidence that these employees withheld their names for fear of being fired – to me, that doesn’t sound like an accepting corporation.  And lest you need more proof that this became about more than just freedom of speech but a symbol of hate, check out some of the homophobic tweets that were made. ( http://storify.com/homophobes/top-50-homophobic-chick-fil-a-tweets ).

Now, regarding Cathy’s comments... I do disagree with them (and would cite http://www.soulforce.org/resources/what-the-bible-says-and-doesnt-say-about-homosexuality/ in my disagreement), but that wouldn’t make me want to stop eating at Chick-Fil-A. I do feel the need to comment on what he said though, since so many people seem to still think “Biblical marriage” is under attack. For the record, most of us recognize that there is a separation of church and state, and would not want to impose our views on any religion. Each denomination should have a right to define marriage as a sacrament as fits with their beliefs. However, marriage isn’t just a Christian institution. Throughout time, the concept has existed across cultures and religions, from Ancient Greece to China, which today is a largely atheist country. Heck, it is believed that same-sex unions were celebrated in Ancient Greece and Rome, some regions of China, such as Fujian, and at certain times in ancient European history. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage). In the United States today, you'll find marriages in any state between heterosexual Muslims, atheists, Wiccans - not just Christians. Many in politics and judicial seats have recognized this, and have kept the church's rights protected even when allowing same-sex marriage.  Rather, with most of us wanting to respect your rights to your beliefs as a Christian, it is you trying to impose your beliefs on others. As long as the church is protected, what are the legal reasons to deny gay marriage when it is not just a Christian word? Inside the church, it's a sacrament that means a lot to your beliefs but little legally. Outside the church and it's a legal right that helps people visit their loved ones in the hospital and other aspects you take for granted. As long as we respect the separation of church and state, does it matter what the Bible says or what Dan Cathy has to say about it? And if it does, why are you not fighting to prevent heterosexual unions between non-Christians? Shouldn’t marriage only be allowed in a church?

But let me re-emphasize that wI do not care if Dan Cathy is personally against gay marriage. I have no problem with a Chick-Fil-A opening in Boston or Chicago; I have no problem with Chick-Fil-A being closed on Sundays; I have absolutely no issue with Chick-Fil-A having Christian associations; and I absolutely support BOTH freedom of speech and freedom of religion. What I do NOT support is hate, or the financing of groups that have been designated as hate groups. I won’t judge you for continuing to eat there, as is your right, and I certainly don’t take it out on any innocent employees. But I cannot stomach the idea that even one cent of my money would be used to support hate (now if I know the individual franchise is spending money to support gay rights, like in New Hampshire, I might reconsider on an individual franchise business… but in general I don’t wish to visit Chick-Fil-A not because of their service, but because of where my money might end up).

If by some chance you are still wondering what the big deal is about a few donations to hate groups, let’s end with some statistics. Not only are teens who self-identify as homosexual five times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to attempt suicide (http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/study-gay-teens-five-times-more-likely-to-attempt-suicide/), but a 2011 study also found  a “higher rate of suicide attempts even among [gay or straight]  youths who were not bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays…” (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2011/04/18/study_finds_higher_suicide_risk_for_gay_teens_in_conservative_regions/).  40 percent of homeless youth identify as GLBT – a huge number compared to the percent of those that identify as GLBT in the general population. Of these, the two biggest reasons were either running away after being rejected when they came out, or being forced out (http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/07/12/515641/study-40-percent-of-homeless-youth-are-lgbt-family-rejection-is-leading-cause/). Now, if being gay was really a choice, wouldn’t these youth just choose to be straight over being homeless or attempting suicide? As if that wasn’t enough, 2011 saw the largest number of anti-gay murders ever reported (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/02/anti-gay-hate-crimes-murders-national-coalition-of-anti-violence-programs_n_1564885.html) and the SPLC found that homosexuals are far more likely than any other minority group in the U.S. to be victimized by a hate group (http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/winter/anti-gay-hate-crimes-doing-the-math).

With that said, feel free to support Chick-Fil-A as a business all you want if you have enjoyed the service and food there. All I ask is that you try to respect and understand why, until things change, I do not wish to spend my money at a Chick-Fil-A.  And in case you were wondering why my own name is not attached to this, let it be known that I am not ashamed of being born gay – but I do fear causing trouble for my family, most of whom do not share my views. I love them anyway, and hope someday they can come to love me and share in my view of equality so that I never have to withhold my name again.

Oh, and one last thing: If you went to Chick-Fil-A on August 1st thinking you were only supporting a man’s right to free speech, you should know that there is indeed a good chance your money is going to hate groups (http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/herman-cain-chick-fil-a-donating-up-to-30-million-to-anti-gay-groups/politics/2012/08/03/45543). If you did so as a Christian, perhaps it’s time to revisit the Gospel (Luke 6:37 and 1 John 4:20, among others).