I’m not sure Dan Cathy realized what a can of worms he was opening when he spoke to The Baptist Press and stated that his company’s position is that they are supportive of “the biblical definition of the family unit.” The resulting spotlight that shone on Mr. Cathy’s other remarks on the subject and the donations made through Chick-fil-A’s charitable organization WinShape revealed that the comments by Dan Cathy were more than just a one-off statement made by someone who works for the company. For many, patronizing Chick-fil-A meant financially supporting the organizations that condemn LGBTQ individuals, including one organization that is a designated hate group.
The resulting backlash seems to have surprised many people. On one hand, i am hearing people who don’t understand why “the gays” are so upset over one man’s words. On the other, i am hearing shock that so many people lined up for the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. I can think of no better example of the U.S. culture war than this.
I’ve seen several articles over the past few days (including one i shared here previously) about peoples’ personal experience, mostly on Facebook, with friends and family over this topic. I’ve had my own similar experience.
I have a friend i’ve known for about five years. We met through the local homeschooling community. I’ve always known she is more conservative than i am, both politically and religiously, but we usually avoided those topics and otherwise got along well. When her father became ill several years ago due to Alzheimer’s disease, she and i became much closer, since i lost both of my grandmothers to that disease and was close to my mom as she cared for her mother right through the end. When my son disclosed that he was transgender earlier this year, this friend was one of many who offered support and praised our courage.
When i checked my Facebook news feed on August 1st and saw that she posted a photo of her young son at Chick-fil-A, along with comments from her about the appreciation day as well as other posts from her speaking in support of the day and Dan Cathy, i felt hurt, angry, confused, and sad. I knew that she was Facebook “friends” with some other teenagers from our homeschooling community (thankfully not my son), and i felt horror that they would see those images. For the first day or two, i couldn’t respond. I didn’t know how, or what to say. Honestly, if i had seen her car in the drive-thru of a local Chick-fil-A on a random weekday, i wouldn’t have thought much of it. I know that one of the local store franchise owners is gay-friendly; i know of at least one gay person who has worked there, and i have some local gay friends who don’t plan to stop eating there. But to go so boldly and proudly on that day, the day that Mike Huckabee declared was a day to
affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse
what could that possibly mean except that she agreed with Dan Cathy’s statement and everything he stands for? And furthermore, since the media storm that followed his statement, there’s no way she could not know about the money that is being donated to the anti-lgbt causes. Is she really okay with her money going there?
So, after a few days, she wondered aloud on Facebook why everyone couldn’t just get along. She said she shops at both JCPenney and Chick-fil-A. I guess that somehow eased her conscience? At that point, i felt the need to respond. I tried to express how much it hurt to see her supporting a company that actively works to suppress the rights of my son and his community. I tried to explain that once you have knowledge of where a company spends its money, you have a responsibility for what you’ll do with that knowledge. I tried to be respectful and well-spoken, keeping in mind our years of friendship. She deleted me as her friend and blocked me so that i can no longer see or contact her on Facebook at all. Our difference of opinion meant that i am no longer worthy to be part of her life.
However, one thing that this experience has showed me, is that this controversy is a line-in-the-sand issue. I think those opposed to same-sex marriage are worried: they have a President who has affirmed same-sex marriage, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, Proposition 8 has been ruled unconstitutional, and there are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender celebrities, politicians, musicians, athletes, and television show characters all making LGBTQ life real to everyday U.S. Americans. And i think the gay community is fed up, tired of being bullied and marginalized and treated as less-than instead of equal-to.
I think this is about a lot more than one man’s opinion or the right to free speech. It’s about the shape of our nation’s future for LGBTQ people, and whether we are going to let a particular conservative dogmatic religious viewpoint dominate the lives of others, or whether we are going to stand up and say “enough!” and demand equality. Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A aren’t the cause of oppression for the gay community, but the kind of words they speak and the organizations they support are at the root of the oppression that the gay community faces on a daily basis. It is the belief that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans* people can be changed, cured, and/or should not exist that is at the heart of LGBTQ inequality. I think that is why this controversy has sparked such a reaction, and i think the reaction is long overdue. I, for one, have decided i will no longer be silent for fear of offending. This battle is too important. I know what side of the line i’m on, and i am proud to be here.