UPDATE: July 17, 2012
In a new interview, the chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy was asked if his company had a position against marriage equality and he replied, “guilty as charged.”
He told the “Baptist Press”, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. … We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
Clearly, my boycott of Chick-fil-A will go on!
ORIGINAL POST: February 9, 2012
Is it really easy to forgive and forget? Personally, I feel it’s much easier to forgive, but do you really forget? And, if you forgive, do you really trust that decision? I’m not talking about anyone I know personally, but corporations and the people who run them. Specifically, restaurant chains Cracker Barrel and Chick-fil-A and mega store Target.
As you know, I crusade for civil rights. I believe every man and woman in America should have the same rights as the next person. We all know that isn’t the case.
Women didn’t have those rights until 1920 and African-Americans didn’t have the same rights until 1964 and let’s face, race discrimination is still very much alive today and I’m not just talking about blacks. It’s geared toward every ethnic group. And, in many states in our incredible United States, men and women can still be fired for being gay or perceived to be gay. In six states (and soon to be seven, thank you Washington!) and the District of Columbia, all couples have marriage equality. But, in 43 others states and on a national level, same-sex couples don’t have the right to marry or the same benefits.
This is a personal crusade for me. I’m not alone. Many of you want the same thing. It may not be for you personally, but for a family member, a friend, or for me. We’re making progress one battle at a time, one state at a time, and one person at a time. However, it’s a tough fight for us. We’re just one person going up again corporations that make millions and billions of dollars annually and those businesses use our money to discriminate.
Let’s take Cracker Barrel, a Tennessee-based restaurant chain that focuses on southern cooking that’s been around since 1969. I hear their food is incredible, but I’ve never eaten there. Back in the early 1990s, way before I became a liberal treehugger, I read about their hate policies.
In 1991, an intra-company memo called for employees to be fired if they did not display “normal heterosexual values”. At least 11 employees were dismissed under the policy on a store-by-store basis. After this was made public thanks to gay rights groups, the company’s founder apologized and dropped the policy. However, it wasn’t until 2002 that shareholders were able to persuade the Cracker Barrel Board to forbid anti-gay employment practices.
But, wait. They didn’t just hate the gays. In 1999 and 2001, several race discrimination lawsuits were filed against Cracker Barrel and in 2004, the U.S. Justice Department found that the chain violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for discriminating against customers based on race.
Then, in 2006, they paid a $2 million settlement to end a suit alleging race and sexual harassment at three Illinois restaurants. The chain now displays signs in restaurants and on its website explaining its non-discrimination policy and how you can make a complaint.
When the man who started Cracker Barrel died last month, here was the first line of his obituary in the New York Times: “Danny Evins, who created Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a restaurant heavy on grits and nostalgia, expanded it into a $2 billion chain and then fought a losing battle to discriminate against gay employees, died on Saturday in Lebanon, Tenn. He was 76.”
Is that really how you’d want to be remembered? Seriously.
Cracker Barrel is not alone. Chick-fil-A, a Georgia-based quick service restaurant chain in 39 states and D.C, is well-known for promoting the company founder’s Christian values.
Last year, it became public knowledge that the chain was co-sponsoring a marriage conference along with the Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI), that works to “strengthen families by restoring to public life the traditional, foundational principles and values essential for the well-being of society”. It should come as no shock that PFI is supporting Rick Santorum’s bid for president.
PFI has filed briefs against the trial ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8 and has also worked to make sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination legal in Pennsylvania.
Chick-fil-A’s founder Truett Cathy and his family’s charity WinShape gave $2 million to social conservative groups in 2009 alone!
And, finally, Target. Here is where I’m really torn.
Since May 2010, the gay and lesbian community have been boycotting the chain because of its donations to anti-gay groups and politicians.
In July of that year, Target Corporation donated $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, basically a Republican political action group that used its money to run television ads to get Republican hater Tom Emmer elected as governor of Minnesota.
Luckily, Emmer lost that race by less than 9,000 votes and Target lost its $150,000 and many customers. Before I get back to Target, one more thing about this jerk Emmer. He has voted against anti-gay bullying for gay and lesbian youth in the past and says he will continue to vote against it. Emmer says it’s the teachers job to do that. It’s not the lawmakers! Seriously?
Once Target’s donations became public and the boycotts continued, new pop icon and “Mother Monster” Lady Gaga worked closely with the company to stop its anti-gay donations. She was unhappy with the progress and responded by pulling an exclusive deluxe edition of her CD, “Born This Way” from the chain last year.
Target now says it has changed. Look at this full-page ad the company placed in a gay publication, Out Magazine’s December 2011 & January 2012’s double issue of the “Out 100”, the 100 most compelling people of 2011:
I truly want to believe that Target is evolving and is becoming diversified. But, when and how do you trust again?
Cracker Barrel, Chick-fil-A, and Target are not alone. I’m sure if you look hard enough at most companies and most charities they have donated money to, you might find a “gotcha”. That’s almost impossible to avoid. However, it’s one thing to donate money to hate groups or politicians and to discriminate openly and another, to make a mistake.
Even presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is facing heat for his donations to openly anti-gay groups.