By James T.
It was the early morning hours of September 22nd, 2011 in Hollywood, CA that a line of patrons formed around the block in anticipation for the grand opening of a new fast-food restaurant known as Chik-Fil-A. Up until then, the chain had few locations in Southern California... so few, that the novel idea of consuming mass-produced sandwiches the rest of the country raved about, often through social media, was alluring enough for some. Adding to the 6am madness was also a sweepstakes playing on what American’s love best-- free merchandise! For, the first 100 consumers were promised free food for one year... (2) With that, the fast-food frenzy, and soon to be on-going debate of Chik-Fil-A took over the movie capital of the world.
Almost instantly, nearby, in West Hollywood, and across LGBT marriage equality websites and social media, disapproval was loud and clear. The establishment was one to be reckoned with in the wake of overall LGBT equality and Prop 8 (a measure passed in November of 2008 prohibiting gay marriage). The restaurant was unwanted in the community by many and frustrations grew as truths came forward.
How can fast food be so evil? Alone, it was not. However, add political agenda and religious interplay to the recipe, and things quickly became sour.
It is now known, that Chik-Fil-A donated approximately $2,000,000 to anti-gay organizations, such as the National Organization for Marriage (one that has been known to produce anti-gay media for distribution during key political times), in 2010 alone-- a figure that is small in comparison to the amount contributed in total over the years. (4)
How were the majority of consumers not aware of this? Simple truth-- when most buy lunch, they don’t realize how intricately everything is tied together. Super-sizing an order can indeed be altering your rights.
Chik-Fil-A donated under the name “Winshape Foundation”-- created and still owned by the restaurant's founder, S. Truett Cathy (3). When questioned about their involvement in funding such organizations, which were playing as a PAC (Political Action Committee), to fuel the anti-marriage debate, their reply showed no remorse and went on to publicize their religious standpoints citing their stronghold beliefs on marriage being between a man and a woman.
When the news of such participations hit the media, ideas were torn. Chik-Fil-A quickly found itself under scrutiny. However, there were a few supporters. Rick Santorum, former Republican presidential candidate known for being anti-gay, took to Twitter, saying “With two of my boys, Enjoying chick-in-strips and an awesome peach shake at Chick-fil-A. See you here next Wednesday!” (4) His social-media interaction charged his own anti-gay support from some, but proved for others that fast food just got political!
Chik-Fil-A continued to lose customers, experienced protests, and lost sponsorship/advertising rights from major companies such as Jim Henson’s Muppet Company which had partnered up with the chain for their new film, The Muppets (2011), but ultimately pulled the plug in light of things. (1)
The fight for GLBT equality and marriage rights hit a new level as consumers began to take closer look at where their money went and took to social media, sharing their experiences, and even creating viral videos promoting a unified stand. Those fighting for gay rights were not receiving the adequate attention and support needed. We had invested our money into companies that were making millions but betraying us. It became more evident that political influence was in everything we took for granted. And with that, the race was becoming more and more unified as people let the truths be heard.
Chik-Fil-A is just the beginning of a long list of outlets, including retailers such as Wal-Mart, Salvation Army, Exxon-Mobil, and groups like Boy Scouts of America, that have fueled anti-gay rights. In an ironic turn of events, Urban Outfitters-- a chain of clothing stores that initially reported being liberal, with a 75% pro-gay clientele (7), added to the chaos.
In 2008, Urban Outfitters had become one of the prime distributors for a line of t-shirts created for the NOH8 campaign to strike down Prop 8. While the shirts were flying off shelves, Urban Outfitters was using the profits to support anti-gay campaigns! When news struck about these practices, merchandise was pulled from shelves and support was found in celebrities that had originally been fans of the store, such as Miley Cyrus, who decided to use their public recognition to give a needed voice. (6)
It’s odd to think that something as simple as food or a t-shirt can impact so many lives in the political debate... Companies and media interplay get trickier and trickier in how they support causes that do not reflect the motives of their consumers. But, it is our job to take a closer look and make the change. Increasingly, we have advanced access in how to make our voices heard. We can influence everything in how we spend our money, what we say on our social websites, and generally just educating ourselves about the matters important around us.
1 - "Chick-Fil-A Anti-Gay Update (Muppets, Huckabee, & Boston Mayor)." Chick-Fil-A Anti-Gay Update (Muppets, Huckabee, & Boston Mayor). N.d. YouTube. YouTube, 25 July 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
2 - "Chick-fil-A To Open In Hollywood Sept. 22." CBS Los Angeles. CBS, 8 Sept. 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
3 - "Chick-fil-A Same-sex Marriage Controversy." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.
4 - Cline, Seth. "Chick-fil-A's Controversial Gay Marriage Beef." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 27 July 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013.
5 - Hodrick, Courtney. "Chick Fil A, and the Anti Gay Companies You Would Never Believe You Support With Your Money." PolicyMic. PolicyMic, 08 Sept. 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
6 - Lobello, Carmel. "Urban Outfitters Faces Boycott Over Gay Rights." Death and Taxes. Death and Taxes Magazine, 01 June 2011. Web. 03 Apr. 2013.
7 - Schlanger, Danielle, and Schlomo Sprung. "These Corporations Have All Been Accused Of Hating Gays." Business Insider. Business Insider, 05 July 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2013.
8 - http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacfaq.php