Politics Taste Like Chicken
August 3, 2012 2:55 pm
By Yvonne Lee
While Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy’s thoughts on LGBT issues and marriage equality are by now well known (check out ongoing coverage of Wednesday’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day and its response, today’s Same Sex Kiss Day) there is a related story quietly gaining momentum, of a schism within the LGBT community.
One franchise, the only store in the state of New Hampshire, seems to have broken rank with Cathy’s philosophy and stood up for gay rights . . . possibly.
The controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A has been documented ad nauseam this week. (Check out the Facebook page for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day to see hateful posts like “No homos get my business” and leave feeling a little bit sadder for knowing how much fear and ignorance is out there.) But seemingly going against the grain is the franchise in Nashua, New Hampshire owned and operated by Anthony Picolia. Picolia announced earlier this week that he would continue to be a sponsor for next Friday’s NH Pride Fest, the state’s gay pride festival.
Either this is a welcome show of support for gay rights in an otherwise hate-filled week of Christian chicken enthusiasts, or brilliant marketing on Picolia’s part. No one is exactly sure where Picolia stands on gay marriage, and that’s troubling for many within the LGBT community.
The statements Picolia made, for instance this one on NH Pride Fest’s site, simply voice modern feel-good consumerism:
In both my personal and professional life, I have had and continue to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community. It would make me sad if someone felt they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.
Chick-fil-A at Pheasant Lane Mall has gay employees and serves gay customers with honor, dignity and respect. We also don’t discriminate in giving back to the Nashua community, donating to a wide variety of causes. I would challenge people to come have a conversation with me before they make assumptions or boycott my restaurant. Come to restaurant and see for yourself that my team and I only have one mission: To serve exceptional experiences to all.
Cathy’s statement certainly created an awkward question about whether all Chick-fil-A franchise owners and employees were complicit in Cathy’s anti-gayness, whether they knew his thoughts on the matter or not. The options for those who disagree with but work for CFA at this point are to either continue to support a bigot or to risk losing their livelihood. Many wonder if Picolia choose the most pragmatic approach, given that he is not anti-gay.
According to Franchise Direct, Chick-fil-A franchises are “operated” by investor/owners, who lease the store, property and equipment from the company, and also buy their food supply from the parent company. CFA receives 15% of sales and 50% of pre-tax profit — so whether they know it or not, all managers are contributing indirectly to anti-gay causes.
But is that really so shocking? How many of us truly know what the people we work for all the way up the food chain think and feel about issues we care about? The Philly Post published a list of 30 other companies to boycott if one is going to boycott Chick-fil-A based on Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index — including Bed Bath and Beyond and Loews stores.
So while some are unimpressed with Picolia’s commitment to donate chicken sandwiches to this year’s NH Pride Fest, others are happy to continue eating their chicken sandwiches. Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A remains at the center of an uneasy dance between politics, publicity, and human rights.
Image from here