The cold war between LGBT people and fast-food chain Chick-fil-A became a battle royal after company president Dan Cathy admitted his opposition to same-sex marriage in July. Straight allies and enemies soon joined sides after learning that not only does Chick-fil-A disapprove of LGBT people and their families, the company funnels millions to organizations working to deny them basic rights. The drama played out in these hot spots in July and August.
San Francisco mayor Ed Lee tweeted July 26, “Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone.” He followed up: “Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.” The next day, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi tweeted, “For the record, I prefer Kentucky Fried Chicken. #ChickFilA.”
The owner of the city’s only franchise wanted everyone in the Windy City to know that her store donates to LGBT organizations. Meanwhile, Alderman Joe Moreno continued to do his best to block a Chick-fil-A from setting up shop in his ward. “Zoning is not a right,” Moreno told the Chicago Tribune, saying later that the chain’s history of discrimination is disturbing. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”
New York City
Lesbian City Council speaker Christine Quinn urged New York University’s president to end the college’s relationship with the on-campus Chick-fil-A after a Change.org petition to remove the restaurant attracted over 15,000 signatures. Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated it was “inappropriate” for government to attempt to ban a privately owned business.
Anthony Picolia, manager of New Hampshire’s only Chick-fil-A restaurant, pledged to cosponsor the state’s LGBT Pride Festival, saying his store “has gay employees and serves gay customers with honor, dignity, and respect.”
Mayor Thomas Menino lobbed a grenade by sending an angry letter to Chick-fil-A: “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it. I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston.” The controversy boiled over after Menino’s letter went public and other mayors piled on. A week later, Boston Globe writer Josh Barro lambasted Menino for turning “bullies into martyrs.”
Like the bosses of many big cities, Mayor Vincent Gray strongly condemned Chick-fil-A, tweeting, “Given my long standing strong support for LGBT rights and marriage equality, I would not support #hatechicken.” Gray’s spokesman later admitted that the city government might not be able to stop the chain from opening in the capital.
As owner of the Hollywood Chick-fil-A, Jeremiah Cillpam released a statement declaring Cathy’s “intent was not to speak on behalf of every Chick-fil-A owner,” and that his own restaurant is committed to serving guests “regardless of belief, race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender.” Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, “In Los Angeles and in America, love and liberty will always triumph.” In nearby Torrance, gay artist Manny Castro vandalized a Chick-fil-A by scrawling “Tastes Like Hate” on the restaurant’s exterior.
The Woodlands, Texas
Former vice-presidential candidate and current publicity-seeker Sarah Palin took advantage of the uproar by tweeting a picture of her and husband Todd at a Chick-fil-A in Texas in late July. The next week, Palin campaigned in Cleveland, Mo., for conservative Senate candidate Sarah Steelman, eliciting hoots and hollers when she declared she was stopping for a midnight snack at Chick-fil-A.
Chick-fil-A’s home base was besieged with make-outs during August 3’s National Same-Sex Kiss Day and anti-equality devotees on the Mike Huckabee–organized Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day two days earlier. One male couple got to the heart of the matter by smooching in front of the suburban headquarters of the WinShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, which gives generously to antigay groups.