Walking out of Chick-fil-A has become the thing to do. Talking about walking out has even become its own activity on social media.
People are tweeting and Facebook-ing how they have eaten their last fried chicken sandwich, while others are learning how to make Hilah Johnson's "Pro-Gay" Alternative Sandwich. The final product looks delicious but the video tutorial itself is six minutes, nine seconds long, and you still have to wait an hour for the chicken to marinate. That's not fast food anymore. But I digress.
The reason for people fleeing from this sinking ship is because of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's anti-gay marriage remarks, which are as antiquated as the Titanic itself. And while boycotting an establishment is a valid form of opposition, I'm much more of a sit-in, Woolworth's Lunch Counter type of person. I will not move from my table until you make me leave, and I won't be bribed to eat anything, even if it is free.
That's exactly what I did one evening. I busted into a Chick-fil-A and spoke with a manager named Robin*. Robin admitted Cathy does not speak for all the individual stores or workers who may themselves be gay or LGBT-friendly. To him, Cathy's comments are personal.
"I can certainly see how they might be offended by it," says Robin, but "[Cathy's] not indicting that type of behavior. He's simply saying, 'This is what I believe.'"
But Cathy is not at a private cocktail party telling his friends, "We're inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say we know better than You as to what constitutes marriage." He's talking to the Baptist Press as a high-level representative of his company, in an age when many Americans -- 50 percent as of last May's Gallup poll -- are supporting same-sex marriage and LGBT equality. Plus, in 2010 alone, Chick-fil-A funneled $2 million to seven anti-LGBT organizations, including $1.1 million to the Marriage & Family Foundation. This is not a backyard BBQ chat, this is no longer a personal belief at all -- it is straight-up, corporate-funded bigotry.
"By taking their customers' money and pouring it into far-right, anti-gay organizations, Chick-fil-A is telling a sizable portion of its customer base that they and their family and friends are less than and not worthy of equality and respect," says Matt Comer, editor of QNotes, the Charlotte-based LGBT community newspaper of North Carolina. "It's bad business but, more importantly, their funding of hate groups is harmful and dangerous to the well-being of LGBT people."
These people include Chick-fil-A employees. There are teens manning the cash registers, wearing neat black polo shirts as they stack cups at the soda fountains. Their pimpled, eager faces beam with a mouth full of metal braces. There must be at least one gay gal or guy in there somewhere, and how do they feel? Your company president has confirmed that you, and even some of your friends and their parents, are an invisible group that doesn't deserve the same civil rights as your straight counterparts. Yet you don't want to lose your job, especially in a down economy.
"What kind of message is that sending," says Dan Mauney, founder of the Gay It Forward coupon and staple of the LGBT community in Charlotte, N.C., when, "the chief executive of my company has come out and said I don't matter and I don't exist. That may be the job you can get right now because of your schedule and skill set. You have got to be careful when you make comments like that because you don't know who that's going to hurt inside your own particular company."
Robin still hadn't dangled a free chicken sandwich in front of me, which I would vehemently refuse, in exchange for a sympathetic report. Seeing as we have nothing more to talk about, I leave, knowing this will be my last time in Chick-fil-A. I have no reason to be there anymore, except perhaps for the teen employees who are too scared to speak out. And I say to them, fear not friends, come find me next door. I'll be the gal stuffing her face with french fries at Wendy's.
*Name has been changed to preserve requested anonymity.