Who Gives a Cluck What Dan Cathy Thinks?

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Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A's President and COO, recently stated that his company supports anti-gay groups, inspiring public debate over the connection between politics and corporate patronage.

by Tamara Watkins

On July 16, Dan Cathy, President and COO of Chick-fil-A confirmed that his company is decidedly anti-gay marriage. The chain's conservative politics have long been suspected; however, no one from the (heteronormative, thank you very much) Chick-fil-A family publicly stated it. This proclamation wasn't very surprising for liberals who patronize the chain. Chick-fil-A is notoriously Christian. If you want a banana shake on a Sunday, you're out of luck. So why are we all astonished that this chain is also now notoriously anti-gay rights? Well, for me, it's more that I'm surprised that a COO would be willing to alienate potential customers by telling them that they offend God. People go to restaurants for food, not a lecture on morality. However, as Chick-fil-A is a privately-held company and therefore not accountable to shareholders, it seems apparent that the company's leader can do nearly anything as long as he doesn't alienate the core group of customers the company values. I find this refreshing, in a perverse way; a company not going out of its way to hide its prejudice is pretty rare. Part of me admires Cathy's willingness to stand up for what he believes in regardless of the potential backlash, even if what he believes is morally repugnant. The rest of me, though, is disgusted that any individual living in the twenty-first century could be against all citizens having the right to marry the consenting adult of her or his choice.

While Cathy's proclamation has made many people, including this humble author, swear off Chick-fil-A's food. (Oh, how I will miss Chick-fil-A's delicious lemonade.) However, not everyone took the politically-motivated abstemious route. Some individuals opted to consume even more Chick-fil-A. Inspired by Mike Huckabee, pro-Biblical marriage, anti-gay rights individuals put their money where their mouth is during a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." Well, with a step that changes money into chicken; it's like a capitalist chicken version of the Eucharist. Not surprisingly, Thomas Menino and Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel have proclaimed that Chick-fil-A is not welcome in their cities. Legions of liberals have sworn off Chick-fil-A's products. (For people who love both Chick-fil-A and equal rights, an innovative lawyer created a Chick-fil-A offset program. All this commotion over some food? Surely there is something more interesting to talk about during an election year.

Not every Chick-fil-A patron or employee an intolerant person intent on forcing everyone to abide by carefully chosen verses from a millennia-old book. Although the corporation is run by a man who believes that the Bible is the ultimate guide to marriage, some franchise owners and employees disagree with Chick-fil-A's head rooster. One New Hampshire Chick-fil-A restaurant intends to help sponsor New Hampshire Pride Fest, a pro-gay rights event. Chick-fil-A employs (perhaps unknowingly) homosexual individuals. So, no, not all of Chick-fil-A is anti-gay; just the guy who is the company's most famous face, after those cows that implore us to eat mor chikin.

It seems to me that, while entertaining, this Chick-fil-A kerfluffle is yet another distraction to keep the public's attention diverted from important topics—attacks on women's rights and access to health care, Romney's tax returns—and satiate the public's appetite for controversy that is easy to digest. Eat mor chikin or don't—it's up to you—but start being mor politically active in your country if you are outraged about any one of the myriad things going on right now. If you care about equal rights, then show your support in ways other than boycotting a fast food chain. Become active in an organization that supports marriage equality. Write op/eds. Post on Facebook. This work will last longer than any sandwich, and probably lead to less indigestion.

Tamara Watkins teaches college classes and spends her free time getting riled up about stuff.

Image courtesy of the Huffington Post.

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