Here on The Huffington Post, Shane Windmeyer wrote a piece about becoming friends with Dan Cathy, the president and COO of Chick-fil-A. I was going to respond in the comments section, but I quickly realized that I had lots more than 250 words to say.
Four years ago I wrote a comment on another site about Melissa Etheridge defending evangelical Christian pastor Rick Warren. She was saying similar things as Shane Windmeyer.
My response to her open letter was basically, yes, I'm sure he is a nice man; in fact, I've met him and know he is. Yes, you can attend his mega-church and sit in the chairs with thousands of others. However, let's say that Melissa remains a sexually active lesbian. She would never be allowed to lead worship (that's Christian speak for playing guitar and singing love songs to Jesus at the front of the church), which is the talent God obviously gave her. She also would never be able to lead Bible study or Sunday school. Why? Because she is a lesbian. This style of church lets alcoholics, thieves, tax evaders, gluttons and others lead, but homosexuality would be a deal breaker. It's "love the sinner, hate the sin." Rick Warren still believes Melissa and all of us LGBTQ folks are sinners for our sexuality or gender expression, and Dan Cathy has been clear that he believes the same.
The truth is that Cathy's company has been discriminating against people for years, and not just LGBTQ people. If Windmeyer is fine with Cathy's "financial repentance" about his treatment of LGBTQ people, then why is Windmeyer not challenging Cathy on his discrimination against women and those who do not desire to pray? Cathy's company also "asks people who apply for an operator license to disclose marital status, number of dependents and involvement in 'community, civic, social, church and/or professional organizations,'" according to Forbes. These types of questions leave rather obvious space for rather blatant discrimination against people not married or involved in church.
In my opinion, Windmeyer should be personally standing against discrimination of all types, and so should his organization. According to its website, "Campus Pride envisions campuses and a society free of anti-LGBT prejudice, bigotry and hate. It works to develop student leaders, campus networks, and future actions to create such positive change." How is supporting Cathy in line with that vision?
The Campus Pride website also states, "The executive director is national LGBT civil rights leader and campus pioneer Shane L. Windmeyer." I think our definition of "civil rights" may be a bit different. As LGBTQ people, are we only fighting for equality for white gay men?
I just spent a wonderful four days in Atlanta at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change Conference, and Windmeyer was there as well. The message of the conference was loud and clear: An injury to one is an injury to all. LGBTQ people need to stand up against discrimination of all kinds. We need to stand up with our undocumented brothers and sisters. We need to stand with the First Nations peoples. We need to stand for racial justice and gender justice. Did Windmeyer hear the message? Was he hanging out with Cathy instead of attending the sessions?
At Creating Change, I led a workshop called "Raising Student Activists." The point of my workshop was to encourage people who work with college students to set examples of what it means to be an activist, to support our students in action and to mentor. We need to take risks with our students, not just leave them out to dry when they stand up for what is right. Students across this nation are calling out Chick-fil-A on a variety of issues, including LGBTQ discrimination. We should do the same.
I agree that we should have discussions and dialogue with people who hate us. However, that does not mean that we should stand up for them and defend their hatred. Cathy has been clear. He supports "biblical families," although somehow I do not think he means polygamy. And as Zack Ford points out on ThinkProgress:
Chick-fil-A is not ending the bulk of its anti-gay giving. Chick-fil-A is not implementing any LGBT-inclusive policies like nondiscrimination protections, of which it has none. And Dan Cathy is not apologizing for his vitriolic comments -- in fact, he's making no public comments of his own whatsoever. In other words, the company is doing nothing to improve its atrocious record on LGBT issues.
I will not defend people who think I am going to hell. I will not defend people who run companies that discriminate against women. Additionally, Cathy should be the one putting out statements in support of LGBTQ youth, not the other way around. Why? It is the way that power and privilege work. Homophobia, sexism, etc., are systemic issues, not just the hatred by one person. U.S. society systematically privileges straight people, whiteness, Christians, wealth and men. The person bearing privilege is the one with the power. Windmeyer talked about risk. At that football game, Cathy had all the power.
As someone who stands up against oppression, I will engage in dialogue with people who are different from me. However, I will not defend them. Where is the line? What kind of example are we setting for students and youth?
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