After the Pulse nightclub massacre, which left 49 people dead and 53 wounded, employees of at least one Chick-Fil-A in Orlando prepared food for people waiting in line to donate blood, according to The New York Times.
The Atlanta-based, Christian-minded fast food chain closes all its stores on Sundays; a policy strongly embraced by its conservative CEO, Dan Cathy.
Although the Orlando Chick-fil-A locations were not open to the public, their food donations have at least some wondering if the chain -- with an extensive history of antigay policies -- is singing a different tune. On Tuesday, one person wrote on Facebook:
"Gay 'lifestyle' disapproving Chick Fil A opened one of its Orlando locations ON A SUNDAY to donate and serve hundreds of free chicken sandwiches and sweet tea to the amazing folks who waited in line to donate at the One Blood donation center. I repeat, ON A SUNDAY! Touche, Chick Fil A, touche [sic]."
Others are less swayed. Bill Huelsman, a volunteer at the GLBT Community Center of Orlando, told the Times on Tuesday that he did not see food donations as a sign that the company was changing its long-held stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
"They should be trying to do the right thing," Huelsman said. "Everybody is pulling together."
Chick-fil-A became a flashpoint in the national marriage equality debate after it was revealed that the company, through its nonprofit WinShape Foundation, donated millions of dollars to antigay causes and candidates over several years previous. The chain was founded by noted conservative Christian S. Truett Cathy, and is now run by his son, Dan. In 2012, Dan Cathy helped the company become the target of protests (and support campaigns) when he voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage, telling reporters that he runs the national company according to "biblical principles."
The response was immediate. A California high school and the Denver International Airport refused to do business with the fast food chain over its antigay leanings, and drag queens Willam and Detox made a mawkish music video titled "Chow Down (At Chick-fil-A)" that went viral. Although reports suggest Chick-fil-A has made improvements, many feel that the company's record guarnatees a lifelong boycott.
While conservatives and conservative news outlets across Twitter are praising the company for its goodwill and generosity, it's importnat to remember that Sunday's donations were the actions of individual employees and managers -- no corporate statement on the LGBT tragedy has been made.
A representative for Chick-fil-A Corp. told The New York Times in an email that the company was unsure how many local Orlando chains were involved in Sunday's donations, and that there have been rare cases that "move our local operators to respond with food donations to help communities in need." A Los Angeles Chick-fil-A actually hosted a fundraiser for LGBT youth in 2014.