A southerner dishes on Chick-Fil-A

There are more than 10 Chick-Fil-A restaurants within a 20 mile radius from my house in north metro Atlanta, Ga. Any Georgian, as well as any southerner, is familiar with Chick-Fil-A and its mouth-watering chicken, lightly toasted, buttered buns, pickles and homemade lemonade and sweet tea (yes, its sweet tea–not “sweetened” tea–people). The restaurant is synonymous with Atlanta and metro Atlanta living; it goes hand-in-hand with the many rituals southern families have during the week and on the weekend. It offers many themed evenings such as daddy-daughter night, mother-son dates and kid specials on any given day during the week.

They also serve as the go-to place parents patronize to feed scores of children after Little League or other recreational organized sporting events. On any given Saturday afternoon, Chick-Fil-A restaurants across Atlanta are jammed packed with cherubic, dirty, sweaty children stuffing their faces with fried chicken sandwiches or fingers and gulping down an assortment of sodas and sweet tea while their exhausted and often-stressed parents look on.

My first introduction to the Atlanta-based franchise came when I was either in middle or high school. There had always been a Chick-Fil-A in my hometown in south metro Atlanta, but I never ate there until I got older (my obsession lied with McDonald’s). My sister and I raved about its original chicken sandwich and, as I grew older, I also became fond of its beloved honey roasted BBQ sauce they give to put on its grilled sandwiches. The restaurant became the go-to place when one is crunched for time–the staff is friendly, the food is always good and the chain is known to get you in and out within 15 (and that’s if there’s a crowd).

But, in the last few years, Chick-Fil-A has made its stance known on the issue of marriage equality and they are no fans of it. Along with standing by its tradition of not opening on Sundays due to its Christian principles, the restaurant’s owners are diligent in their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. While many social justice activists like myself have known this for years, the recent affirmation from one of the restaurant’s executives have set off a firestorm.

The restaurant’s most recent announcement pretty much rehashed a debate many GLBTQ activists and allies had publicly let go, re-opened old wounds and also forced those who’ve given Chick-Fil-A the benefit of the doubt to rethink about their own values. It’s forced good, loving people to ponder if they could remain open and tolerant of their GLBTQ friends and family members while scarfing down the food of a commercial business that regularly denounces marriage equality and donates to groups that advocate for discrimination of GLBTQ individuals.

And as someone who’s longed salivated over their honey-roasted BBQ sauce, their perfect waffle fries and their juicy and tasty fried chicken sandwiches (hold the pickles, please), a decision I made in the past to stop patronizing a business that promotes intolerance remains clear and solid.

It would trouble me if I looked into the eyes of my GLBTQ friends and allies and swear my allegiance to their quest for full American citizenship while I make a quick stop at Chick-Fil-A to satiate my hunger on any given day. My conscience would not let my mind rest if I regularly blog about how important it is for the good ol’ U.S. of A. to recognize and grant full citizenship to GLBTQ individuals while I use my lunch break during the week to order a No. 7 with no pickles or tomatoes, medium order of fries and a medium lemonade.

The backlash against and dissention from Chick-Fil-A isn’t surprising. While it’s been a tough sell for those stuck in the 20th century mode of thinking, the tide towards acceptance and tolerance of GLBTQ individuals continues to morph towards modernity.

Compared to 30 years ago, younger people appear to be more comfortable with coming out of the closet. GLBTQ representation on television continues to grow and become more commonplace (I will refrain from criticizing the stereotypical nature of these characters in this post). Many people are also reporting to have close friends and family members who are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. While the trend towards tolerance continues to grow, we no doubt still have a long way to go.

Chick-Fil-A represents bigotry, hatred and oppression in my eyes. It’s a business I will refuse to patronize as long as they continue to stand by their “values” of marriage inequality and discrimination. Many people who are defending the restaurant are resting on the argument of the franchise “standing by its values.” These defenders of bigotry point the fingers at social justice-minded folks and activists and label us as intolerant and seeped in absolutes, mocking us for our alleged hypocritical stance.

What these defenders of hate don’t realize is every time you spend $6.50 on that fried chicken sandwich with waffle fries, you contribute to the success of a brand that in turn uses its profits to promote discrimination against a family member, a friend or even a child. Every time these defenders of intolerance muse about how great Chick-Fil-A is in remaining steadfast believers in God’s principles and the Bible, they turn a blind eye from how this restaurant endorses marriage inequality and second class citizenship of GLBTQ  individuals.

Every time these promoters of marriage inequality, discrimination and bigotry gulp down Chick-Fil-A’s sweet tea and lemonade along with their fried chicken, they swallow without contemplating the humiliation GLBTQ individuals feel when they hear fat-cat executives reaffirm that they will never be equal in the eyes of so-called Christians because they happen to love someone of the same gender.

I am not here to tell you all how you should feel about Chick-Fil-A and whether you should eat there again. I honestly don’t care what you do.

Hell, I am pretty sure a few of my GLBTQ dear friends will continue to eat there as they’ve wrestled over how to balance their activism with a company’s right to their own opinion. I have GLBTQ friends who have said they’ll continue to eat at Chick-Fil-A because they want to support the restaurant’s individual managers and owners at the local level and feel a boycott will hurt local, small business owners.

Since I am not a GLBTQ individual, I dare not to stand in judgment of their decision as I do not walk in their shoes.

What I will say is that while it’s your right to stand by the bigotry and hatred Chick-Fil-A promotes in its denunciation of marriage equality, it’s my right to stand in defiance of the fast-food chain and the discriminatory practices it advocates for through its vocal and monetary support of the pushers of hate.