Just three years ago, the fast food chain Chick-fil-A found itself at the center of a controversy that had some New Yorkers, especially students at NYU and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, up in arms. Today, Chick-fil-A is celebrating the opening of its first two stand-alone New York locations this past week: one in Manhattan and another located just ten minutes away from the Stony Brook campus on Route 347.
While many New Yorkers have managed to forgive and forget (or just forget) the controversy and have welcomed Chick-fil-A as yet another food option to incorporate into their unhealthy diets, I continue to stand against the fast food restaurant as I have for these past three years.
To summarize the aforementioned controversy, in 2011 an LGBT rights and watchdog group Equality Matters reported that Chick-fil-A, through its charity foundation the WinShape Foundation, donated over $1.1 million to anti-gay groups from 2003-2008. One year later, Equality Matters published a second report with WinShape’s public tax filings showing that Chick-fil-A donated over $1.9 million to these same anti-gay groups in 2010 alone. These groups have been identified as anti-gay in that they have argued against same-sex marriage, have discriminated against members of the LGBT community and have promoted the use of conversion therapy.
Shortly after these reports were published, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, the son of Chick-fil-A and WinShape founder S. Truett Cathy, defended his company by proclaiming that it has “no agenda against anyone,” despite his belief in “the biblical definition of marriage.” He echoed these same sentiments when he came out in opposition of same-sex marriage one year later.
This, along with media coverage of the donations to anti-gay groups, set the stage for protests and petitions from college students and liberal politicians around the country demanding that Chick-fil-A restaurants be removed and banned in the future from college campuses and cities.
In response to the backlash, Chick-fil-A vowed, in a public statement on its website, to “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” In addition, it promised that the WinShape Foundation would take a closer look at whom it will be donating to in the future.
While these policy changes have mostly been implemented, the 2012 tax filings for the WinShape Foundation and the newly created Chick-fil-A Foundation show that donations to most of the anti-gay groups have ceased, but there are still questionable actions on behalf of Chick-fil-A. Those 2012 tax filings show that the Chick-fil-A Foundation is still contributing money to one of the anti-gay groups, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which received $25,390 in 2012.
In addition, shortly after these new policies were revealed to the public, the WinShape foundation mysteriously held a fundraiser for the Marriage and Family Foundation, another one of the anti-gay groups that Chick-fil-A previously donated to.
With the opening of a Chick-fil-A so close to our campus (and to the house I commute to school from everyday), I can’t help but worry that the restaurant’s actions in the past twelve years will be overshadowed by our community’s hunger for fried chicken and waffle fries. While some have urged for the LGBT community to forgive Chick-fil-A not only because same-sex marriage is now legal throughout the United States but also because it has ceased donations to all but one of the anti-gay groups, I argue that donations to “all but one” is not good enough.
Why should we settle for Chick-fil-A contributing only $25,390 to an anti-gay group based on the fact that it’s dramatically less than several years ago?
If I’m ever going to give any of my money to Chick-fil-A, it’ll be after the company not only ceases to donate money to all anti-gay groups, but also donates an amount of money equal to or greater than the amount it donated before to pro-gay groups and social movements to make up for the damage they have caused toward members of the LGBT community.
The effects of discrimination from groups that Chick-fil-A has donated to are still felt, and will continue to be felt, as long as these groups are funded and thus continue to spread hate to LGBT individuals. The fight for equality does not stop at the legalization of same-sex marriage.
I realize that Chick-fil-A may never donate to pro-gay groups due to the company’s policy of staying out of a political agenda, and thus I will probably never dine there. I understand that everyone will have a different opinion on this topic, which for some may be dictated by their brains and for others by their stomachs.
Either way, if you do choose to purchase food from Chick-fil-A, I urge you to think about what the money you are spending will be used for and who it might help or hurt in the long run.