Earlier this month, when the public learned that fast-food giant Chick-fil-A would be sponsoring an anti-marriage equality event organized by the anti-gay Pennsylvania Family Institute, blogger Jeremy Hooper from Good As You did some digging and found that the company is also involved with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). A few days went by, with supporters of marriage equality in an uproar – and this week the company responded with a video from president and COO Dan Cathy on the company’s Facebook page. Dan Cathy's statement from Chick-fil-A on Vimeo. This requires a little bit of clarification – see, where Dan says “marriage has long been a focus of Chick-fil-A” he apparently forgot to specify “marriage--- for some people.” And when he says the company treats every customer “with genuine hospitality," he neglected to add “…but not with genuine respect.” Chick-fil-A is sending a clear message to its customers that it will happily take your money and give it to anti-gay groups like NOM or the Pennsylvania Family Institute, whether you like it or not. Speaking as someone who was born and raised in New England, I had never even heard of Chick-fil-A until I was in my twenties. But for many people, including my friend and colleague, GLAAD Media Field Strategist Justin Ward – this is very personal.
As a little boy growing up in the Bible Belt of southwest Virginia, Chick-fil-A had me at hello. So did a man named Matthew, my best friend and loving partner of nearly four years now. If only the two loves weren’t at constant odds with each other; but as we know, sometimes love ain’t easy. With all the demands of our busy lives, fast food is supposed to be easy, the drive-thru perhaps the last place on earth where a person expects to encounter an existential crisis. Incorrect order fulfillment, yes, but certainly not a slap in the face of one's greatest hopes and dreams – in my case, that I one day be able to legally marry the person I love most in this world, perhaps even provide a loving home to a child who doesn’t have one. As someone whose idea of a good time is driving the 45 minutes it takes me to get to the closest Chick-fil-A in Paramus, NJ; as someone whose mother always drives me to Chick-fil-A upon my plane landing in Virginia; and as someone who has spent the better part of 28 years loving Chick-fil-A with all my heart and trumpeting the company’s numerous good works, it’s incredibly disheartening to see Chick-fil-A making headlines for supporting organizations that work hard to maintain marriage inequality.I can only imagine how I would feel, if I learned that Town Hall Lanes in Johnston suddenly started proudly donating money to anti-gay groups. (That was my favorite bowling alley growing up – and thankfully, it’s also a supporter of Marriage Equality Rhode Island.) Chick-fil-A’s customers need to know exactly what’s happening to their money after they walk out the door or pull away from the drive-thru. That money is going right into the pockets of groups who are fighting against marriage equality. That'll leave a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.