On Wednesday, Sept. 19, the Windy City Times reported that an agreement has been reached between Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno and the fast food Chick-fil-A chain “resulting in the company confirming they will no longer donate money to anti-gay organizations as the company projects an accepting stance on gay customers and employees.”
“This is a win for the LGBT community,” said Moreno. “This is a win for everyone who works for the cause of equal rights, and a win for Chick- fil-A. This is a win for all.”
Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate sent a letter to Moreno saying, “The WinShape Foundation is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”
Not everyone is happy. Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, who worked closely with Moreno throughout the negotiations, wants the parent corporation to adopt an anti-discrimination policy. Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy—who started the controversy with his remarks that marriage equality was “inviting God’s judgment on our nation”—has said nothing so far. The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown issued a statement saying, “Despite recent news articles claiming Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation donated money to our organization—this is false. The National Organization for Marriage has never received funding from them.” And USA Today reports Thursday that there has been a backlash from upset Chick-fil-A fans on Facebook—such as this missive:
Your decision to CAVE on your biblical principles that has made your business such a success…LEAVES ME SPEECHLESS !!! I WILL NO LONGER BE PATRONIZING YOUR BUSINESS ANY LONGER !! HOMOSEXUALITY IS WRONG PERIOD ! TOO BAD YOU ARE TOO WEAK TO SEE IT !
But others questions whether the chain has really changed at all. LifeSiteNews reported:
[I]t is unclear how much has really changed. The statement of respect touted by The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) as a new development was first issued back in July in response to the controversy over Cathy’s pro-marriage views, and has been on Chick-fil-a’s website since.
The Chicago Tribune also reports that the statement of respect “falls short of Moreno’s goal of adding language opposing discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the company’s employee handbook,” and suggested that it is the alderman who has “reversed course.”
Truth Wins Out also asks for clarification, issuing a press release calling on Chick-fil-A to publically announce their “divorce” from anti-gay groups:
Truth Wins Out called on Chick-fil-A executives to very publicly announce its allege divorce from anti-gay organizations and confirm its new pledge not to fund homophobic political groups though its Winshape Foundation. This is important because when TWO attended the Values Voter Summit in Washington last week, “Chick-fil-A” had become a code phrase for anti-gay activists disapproval of LGBT equality.
“Chick-fil-A is now viewed by the extreme right as its Alamo—a defiant fortress against corporate America’s widespread embrace of LGBT equality,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “It is a big victory if the company is no longer holding the banner of intolerance and is back in the business of poultry instead of anti-gay politics.”…..
The issue reached its apogee when polarizing political figures, such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, sponsored Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. While the corporation had a single day of huge sales, the controversy badly tarnished the brand and turned the product radioactive in America’s major metropolitan regions.
This controversy extends beyond Cathy’s comments and includes his more than $5 million in donations to anti-gay organizations such as The Family Research Council. His Winshape Foundation has also contributed to Exodus International, which has worked in the past to help people “pray away the gay.”
“The only way for Chick-fil-A to save the long-term viability of its brand is to publicly declare its divorce from anti-gay extremists,” added Besen. “Today’s announcement that it won’t be funding flagrantly anti-gay organizations is a good start and we hope to see more of a commitment to fairness in the future.”
Besen recorded South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint at the 2012 Values Voter Summit invoking the anti-gay food chain Chick-fil-A:
But something else has changed, another less recognized victory: outright gay-bashing is no longer acceptable. Now anti-gay conservatives such as Tea Party favorite Jim DeMint have to use CODE words: TWO’s Wayne Besen:
I spent last week at the Values Voter Summit. Outright gay bashing is out of favor. There are two thinly veiled code phrases for proclaiming that one is anti-gay: “Traditional marriage” and “Chick-fil-A.”
The point of both phrases is that they purportedly stand for something and not against LGBT people. In the first instance they are FOR supporting tradition. In the second, they are FOR free speech.
I followed up with Besen, who believes that the fact that antigay people are now forced to use code is a“victory.” He quoted the late, infamous GOP strategist Lee Atwater who said:
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.
”And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.”’
Something similar is happening here, Besen says:
“Well, we started out as faggots and dykes. Then we became militant homosexuals. And now we have become ‘chick-fil-A’ and ‘traditional marriage.’ And our foes are getting abstract when they talk about ‘religious liberty.’ That is the equivalent of Atwater talking about cutting taxes and programs.
I think that many educated elites like [conservative billionaire David] Koch have too many gay acquaintances to be anti-gay. He was probably made to feel uncomfortable with his role in funding the arts, having people perceive him as anti-gay. It likely affected his social status in an area he wanted to be respected and liked.
The modern GOP are people like Koch tricking religious rubes into thinking voting Republican stands for apple pie, America, and freedom. The book, “What’s a Matter With Kansas?” pretty much nailed it. Koch thinks if he spends enough money on socially explosive issues he can get people to vote against their own interests.
However, the anti-gay thing is no longer cool. That is why you don’t see people like Peter LaBarbera, Linda Harvey, and other ‘ick factor’ homophobes on-stage at such events. Tony Perkins talks in code on-stage, and saves his most vitriolic language for his fundraising appeals.
Back to the original point. Code is a win because the less LGBT youth have to endure outright gay-bashing, the easier it is for them to come out. The better they feel about themselves. The more taboo such language becomes—and it creates a situation where people like LaBarbera and Harvey become those you don’t invite to parties where there is polite company. That is a big step towards ultimate social acceptance.
But Chick-fil-A has lost control of its brand. Erick Erickson of the conservative blog Red State, for instance, used Chick-fil-A as a jumping off point to discuss Mitt Romney’s videotape reference to 47% of Americans as “victims” who will probably not vote for him in November. Erickson wrote:
The Chick-Fil-A controversy animated a whole lot of people. It just turned out that the people it most animated were the people who agreed with Dan Cathy.
So it is, I think, with Mitt Romney’s comments. I think the media and the left have badly misread the American mood on this. On CNN yesterday, I spent a fair amount of time with Kate Bolduan and Joe Johns, two of my favorite people. They kept focusing on Mitt Romney’s characterization of the word “victims.”
What I explained to them and what I think the media misses is that many of the people the media would claim Mitt Romney described as “victims’ weren’t who Mitt Romney was speaking about. And those people intrinsically know it. They may technically fall into the category Mitt Romney described as government dependent victims, but they know he’s not talking about them. He’s talking about the people they also are talking about.
And beyond the immediate use of Chick-fil-A as code for “anti-gay” is the lingering stench when someone associated with Chick-fil-A continues to act in an antigay manner. How long did it take, for instance, for the Coors Brewing Company to overcome it’s brand association with its antigay founder and the long Coors boycott? There was never a boycott of Chick-fil-A—but there might yet be one if Cathy continues his antigay ways, defying what the public now believes is a changed position. The Advocate reported Thursday about such a “loophole”:
The fast food chain promised in a letter to Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, reported by the Chicago Phoenix, that it would end giving to any groups with “political agendas,” implying it had stopped a practice that had led to about $5 million for anti-gay groups. But there might be a loophole.
Although the company’s foundation might not be donating directly, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy tweeted a photo on Tuesday from the 2012 WinShape Ride for the Family. He wrote alongside the picture of a pack of motorcyclists: “WinShape Ride for the Family bikers locked and loaded for 200 mile ride to Wilmington out of Charleston.
That long ride is a fundraiser for an organization that helps lobby against marriage equality. Registration forms for the event ask that checks be sent, not to the WinShape Foundation that Chick-fil-A operates, but directly to the Marriage and Family Foundation at 5200 Buffington Road in Atlanta, Ga.
The forms say the ride fee is $3,500 for each individual or couple. But sponsorship packages posted online show that organizations could pledge $5,000 for “silver” status, $10,000 for “gold” or $15,000 and more to reach “platinum.” The Chick-fil-A logo accompanies everything, and so does the WinShape name, but it’s unclear whether the foundation continues to make donations.
The Marriage and Family Foundation was not only included in the investigation by Equality Matters of the fast-food chain’s questionable giving history, it was identified as the top anti-gay recipient in 2010. WinShape had given more than $1 million to the group in 2010 alone.
Equality Matters explained the group’s history in detail. It was originally named the Marriage and Family Legacy Fund when it was founded in 2007 by a member of the Cathy family. In fact, the current Buffington Road address in Atlanta is now shared by Chick-fil-A’s headquarters.
It remains to be seen if the taste of fast food chain’s fatty food can overcome it’s stinky anti-gay smell.