Every movement has a defining moment when the supporters and detractors of the movement are finally clearly delineated. From that moment, the movement becomes more organized, the followers become more focused, and everyone takes notice. Gay pride’s catalyst moment was the police raid on a gay bar called Stonewall. The civil rights catalyst moment was when Rosa Parks said no, that she was too tired to give up her seat on a bus. Who knew that the catalyst moment for gay rights would be a chicken sandwich?
Only time will be able to truly tell if this is that defining moment, but it sure seems that way to me. I’ve never seen an incident that polarized the two sides quite like this. One side is screaming “hate speech” while the other is screaming “free speech.” I’d like to inject a large dose of reality to the debate. I want to get past the verbal sparring. I want to cut away the side issues, the who said what first kind of stone throwing.
What happened was a couple of years ago, it was reported that CFA was making large donations to groups that embraced an agenda of denying freedoms to people who had a same-sex attraction. At that time, a grassroots boycott started spreading. No big deal, they sold a few less sandwiches, but CFA stayed pretty much the same. Their corporate name came up once in a while in debates or discussions, but nothing too major took place.
Then last month, during an interview with a religious magazine, the owner of CFA gave his personal opinions regarding same sex marriage and the gay lifestyle. It was a hate-filled speech, but it was his personal opinion. It came on the heels of some very nasty rhetoric coming from religious leaders in North Carolina due to their May ballot enterprise. That probably led to a lot of what happened.
When the magazine came out, he was quoted on several blogs and you-know-what hit you-know-where. Suddenly, CFA stood for anti-gay everything. Suddenly, CFA served hate with its sandwiches. Suddenly, gays were not only not welcome in their restaurants, but if they dared enter, would be treated abysmally. None of that was true. However, the gay community called for a boycott and many people followed suit. For the record, I started boycotting CFA in 2010 when the first report came out, and I haven’t been to their restaurant since. Reasons to follow.
When this happened, christianist leaders decided to support the owner of CFA and his extreme view and loudly entered the debate. Other leaders, and large(r) corporations supported gay rights just as loudly. Sponsers left CFA and CFA told falsehoods about why. Rumors flew about fake Facebook accounts, and illicit business dealings, etc. Freedom of Speech was dragged into the battle, and suddenly there were days of support, and days of boycott, and protests outside restaurants, and it all got so blown up that the original message somehow got lost. Suddenly, the owner of CFA, and CFA itself stood for god and christianist beliefs, and all that entailed. The gay rights front stood for denial of basic freedoms, or the champions of basic freedoms, depending on who you listened to. It got ugly, very quickly.
When you wade through all the shouting and the hate (on both sides) what it boils down to is two issues. The first issue is that one man who owns a private company spoke about his personal beliefs. The second issue is that this same man donated money from his private and corporate accounts (which he’s allowed to do) to organizations that supported his views. No laws were broken. Everything else is just a smoke screen. It’s spin doctors on both sides trying to get the most political mileage out of a bad situation.
On a personal level, though, it does go beyond just that. I like chicken. It’s tender; it’s flavorful; it’s relatively healthy if you prepare it properly. I eat it several times a week. I also like waffle fries. But then, I like nearly anything that’s fried. (Side note: Roy Biggens Party Tip – If it’s green it’s trouble, but if it’s fried get double.) I don’t eat at CFA, and I haven’t for several months. You see, I work hard for the money I have. I want it to work for me, and for the general good. I don’t want to see it go towards things that work against me. When I have a choice as to where I’m going to spend my dollars, I will always choose the business that supports me. CFA supports organizations that not only denies my rights as a citizen of this country, they would also prefer to group me into a concentration camp or ship me away to parts unknown. I’ve been to CFA wearing gay pride insignia and never been treated any differently than other customers. I know that they know to get my money, they have to treat me right. But it’s what they do with the money after I’ve given it to them that’s the problem for me. Please note that I said “the problem for me.” It’s my issue, my problem, and my solution. It’s my choice what to do with my money, so for those reasons, I choose not to patronize their stores. That’s what the issue is about.
I hope that soon we’ll all see that and start working towards a goal that is beneficial to all. Since the issue of gay rights is so polarizing right now, it’s going to have to be decided through the legislative process that defines what America is. Votes count, and the majority wins, every time. If my rights get voted down, I’ll take it like a man and continue to work to change things. If my rights get voted into law, I’ll be happy, but continue to work to see to it that those rights are not only observed but also not taken away.
So, who knew that a chicken sandwich was going to be the Rosa Parks moment for the gay rights movement? It has certainly brought the issue of gay rights into the national public forum for everyone to discuss. I can only hope that it gets discussed rationally and thoughtfully and with as little name calling as possible.
As I said, only time will tell.