By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com August 01 2012 5:54 PM ET
As folks line up at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide this week (today is the evangelicals' "support" day, Friday is the same-sex "kiss-in" day), franchise owners and Chick employees are all on high alert. Among today's highlights:
In New Hampshire, The Raw Story reports that New Hampshire’s only Chick-fil-A restaurant is going against the wishes of chicken chain founder Dan Cathy by pledging to cosponsor New Hampshire's LGBT Pride Festival. Nashua Chick-fil-A franchise manager Anthony Picolia released a statement saying that he had LGBT family, friends, customers, and employees. He wrote: “It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. Chick-fil-A at Pheasant Lane Mall has gay employees and serves gay customers with honor, dignity and respect. We also don’t discriminate in giving back to the Nashua community, donating to a wide variety of causes.”
In Chicago, Lauren Silich, the owner of Chicago's only Chick-fil-A, told Windy City Times that her store donated to LGBT groups this year, including the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, that the store has several lesbian and gay employees, and that she's a big supporter of LGBT rights. Silich told the Times, "What I find interesting is how people have taken the personal views of our CEO and have translated that into discriminatory policy. It hurts my heart that people would think I would run my restaurant in any way that was discriminatory. ... The fact is that Dan Cathy's comments are his personal views, and every CEO in the country has personal views. That doesn't necessarily mean that their stores on a local level, or their employees believe that." She also said that people who are concerned about the money that Chick-fil-A has given to anti-LGBT causes have "a valid point. If people choose not to eat here because a percentage of my profits going to corporate, then that's definitely their choice. I think it's great that we live in a country where we can vote with our wallets. The only thing that I would challenge people is that let's make sure on a holistic level that we're voting fairly."
In Atlanta, at Chick-fil-A's corporate headquarters, the company has put out a few FAQs in response to the controversy. The first says that its restaurants "treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena." The company also denies recent accusations that it created a false Facebook page and says it was a decision by Chick-fil-A, not the Jim Henson Co., to remove Muppet toys from its kids' meals.
In Los Angeles the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation reminded eaters and readers that the Chick-fil-A issue wasn't just about marriage equality, but really about a corporate anti-LGBT stance that has allowed the company to give "millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations, including those that have been designated 'hate groups' by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and those that push so-called 'ex-gay' therapy, which has been denounced by the mainstream medical and mental health community. They have supported organizations that are on record saying that being gay should be recriminalized in America. Chick-fil-A also bans gay couples from its 'WinShape Retreats' aimed at growing leadership within the company."
The Huffington Post's Lila Shapiro interviewed several LGBT employees of Chick-fil-A, for a roundup of how they feel about the controversy. The responses can best be summed up by 18-year-old Gabriel Aguiniga, a gay employee at a Chick-fil-A in Colorado, who told HuffPo that the toughest part of the job was "constantly having people come up to you and say, 'I support your company, because your company hates the gays.' It really takes a toll on me."