When Chick-fil-A announced it was moving into Loyola Law School last year, I was more than disturbed. As a Loyola student, I was angry after researching Chick-fil-A's donations to anti-gay hate groups. These feelings led me to take a stand against Chick-fil-A, and I hope it will lead others to do the same.
The uproar against Chick-fil-A started in late 2011, when Equality Matters revealed that the company had given close to $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2009. When the term "anti-gay" is used, it does not refer to groups that merely oppose homosexuality; rather, it indicates a group that propagates falsehoods about homosexuals in a deliberate attempt to cause harm. The organizations in question have been labeled hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Each year, the SPLC provides a list of hate groups for law enforcement and the public. These anti-gay groups that benefit from Chick-fil-A's corporate dollars utilize a rhetoric that disparages homosexuals, spreading lies that play on the ignorance of an overwhelming majority in American society. This manipulation of the American people must be addressed directly if there is any hope to effect positive change.
Two of the hate groups Chick-fil-A donated to are the Family Research Council (FRC) and Focus on the Family. Tony Perkins, President of FRC, has made claims that gays are more likely to be pedophiles, and that the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would lead to more instances of HIV in the military, a claim that is entirely unfounded. Another FRC spokesman, Peter Sprigg, expressed his desire to "export" homosexuals from the United States because homosexuality is "destructive to society." Focus on the Family claims that "[t]here is no evidence that homosexuals, as a class, are discriminated against in the present society." These are only two of the groups on the list of several organizations that have received money from Winshape, the nonprofit organization of Chick-fil-A.
The question is not whether these anti-gay views are condemnable, which they certainly are, but why they are still seen as an acceptable means of expressing opposition toward the LGBT community. The rhetoric used by these hate groups tends to label LGBT individuals as morally deficient. The hate groups' influence, along with the ability to spread their message nationally, makes them particularly dangerous. It is repugnant that these views on homosexuality are not only accepted as legitimate but met with legitimacy by many in our society. Like racism or anti-Semitism, we should take steps to convey disapproval of hate speech that aims to harm vulnerable minorities.
The double standard of allowing anti-gay hate speech to continue was illustrated in a recent decision to keep Chick-fil-A on NYU's campus. NYU looked like it would be the latest school to ditch Chick-fil-A, after Northeastern University and Indiana University made similar moves. However, NYU's Student Senate voted to keep Chick-fil-A on campus despite an online petition with over 10,000 signatures urging the school to ban the franchise. The chair of the Student Senators Council justified the vote by saying that the proposed ban was based on "ideological reasons" and could limit freedom of expression. However, this is not a mere ideological difference. Surely NYU's Senate would not venture to justify the vote to keep Chick-fil-A on campus if the company donated to a group that said African Americans should be "exported" from the country. Can you imagine the uproar if NYU called such support a matter of "ideological reasons"?
Taking a stand against hate speech should not be limited to protecting your own class. Whether you are Jewish, African-American, heterosexual, or homosexual, you can condemn organizations that spew lies and hateful rhetoric. Would you give money to a company that donated to white supremacy groups? Imagine if these organizations claimed that Jews are destructive to society, for example. Everyone should send a message to Chick-fil-A that hate speech is unwanted and unacceptable, and that all people, gay or straight, deserve dignity and respect.
The double standard of accepting hatred aimed at the LGBT community, while condemning other hate, must come to an end. During a time when LGBT individuals continue to make advancements in obtaining equal rights and acceptance, everyone should speak out against hate speech. Boycotting Chick-fil-A is one way for you to take a stand against this destructive rhetoric. To show your support for condemning hate speech, I encourage you to start by signing the petition at Change.org, "Loyola Chicago Community: Pledge to boycott Chick-fil-A."
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