Former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee is clucking with glee over the perceived success of his "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." "It's gone beyond anything I could have imagined," Huckabee told Fox News. "Every one of (the stores) that I know have reported record, historic sales yesterday. . . . A lot of the stores ran out of chicken before the end of the day."
The event was organized in response to what Huckabee called "economic bullying" after Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the fast food chain was "guilty as charged" of supporting "the biblical definition of the family unit." He then doubled down on the Ken Coleman radio talk show:
I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.
While Cathy's remarks prompted outrage - including remarks from elected officials promising to refuse Chick-fil-A permits for new franchises, remarks that were quickly modified or walked back - the LGBT community actually did not call for a national boycott or organize any counter-protest on Wednesday, other than suggesting people donate the cost of a chicken dinner (about $6.50) to support an LGBT advocacy organization.
For its part, mainstream media covered the story using Huckabee's talking point - that gays were trying to silence religious free speech and put Cathy "out of business." That seemed to ring true with many of those who stood in line for hours for the apparently tasty but fattening sandwich. Some local LA outlets took note that The Abbey restaurant in West Hollywood created a Chick-For-Gay sandwich as a substitute.
(Image: Pro-equality supporter protesting Chick-fil-A's antigay stance on Huckabee's Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in Hollywood. Photo by Mary Jo Godges)
There were long drive-thru lines in Orange County and Long Beach, the LA Times reports: "I'm not against gay rights by any means, but I think this guy is getting a bad rap," Beaumont resident Ed Vatter, 57, said over a plate of chicken nuggets and waffle fries at the Chick-fil-A in Laguna Niguel. "Plus," he said, "the food's pretty good."
(Protest outside Chick-fil-A on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood on Aug 1, 2012 Photo by Mary Jo Godges)
In Hollywood, the protest against "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" was organized by PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - with no direct input or participation by local LGBT leadership or the community. La Crescenta construction manager Roy Simmons, 60, told The Times he opposes gay marriage and wanted to support Chick-fil-A: "With the left, if you don't toe their line and say what they want you to say, they shut you down as a hater, a bigot or a homophobe."
Brian Hamilton, a gay actor from West Hollywood, told The Times that the issue is larger than marriage: "We are well aware of the repercussions of hate speech when it is directed at [gay and lesbian] people . . . It's not good business. It's not smart."
Filmmakers Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges, who covered the event for Frontiers, reported that the atmosphere outside the Chick-fil-A on Sunset Blvd (at Highland Ave, across from the famous Hollywood High School) was heavy with hate with some people honking support and others yelling to the dozen-plus mostly-straight protesters "go back to West Hollywood" and angrily yelling passages from the Bible.
(Straight pro-euqality supporters debating gay rights with Chick-fil-A supporter. Photo by Mary Jo Godges)
With no organized LGBT participation, the messaging about why the Chick-fil-A stance is hateful and consequential was left up to well-intentioned straight people. Therefore the focus of the confrontations revolved not around how WinShape, the foundation behind Chick-fil-A, uses customers' cash to fund the activities of major antigay hate groups such as the Family Research Council - but instead the straight protestors defended gay rights in response to the Huckabee talking point of "free speech" and "traditional marriage." Unfortunately, since many are themselves not aware of how and why civil unions are not the same thing as marriage equality, the debate often devolved into a confrontation over the Bible. One Pro-Chick-fil-A supporter said:
This is about Civil Unions verses traditional marriage. You guys can civil unite all day long. You have all the laws. Everything is geared towards Civil unions from insurance to spousal benefits...it's all there. And no one's complaining about it.
I JUST WANT TO SAY SOMETHING. I AM AN ALLY OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY AND I AM ABSOLUTELY ALL FOR EQUALITY ALL ACROSS THE BOARD. HOWEVER, DON'T YOU REALIZE THAT THIS EVENT IS WRONG? DELIBERATELY PISSING PEOPLE OFF IS NOT THE WAY TO GO. PEOPLE ARE ENTITLED TO BELIEVE WHATEVER THEY WANT TO BELIEVE IN. NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO AGREE WITH THE BELIEFS OF OTHERS EITHER. EVERYONE NEEDS TO STOP AND THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE DOING. YOU ONLY BRING MORE HATE ON THE LGBT COMMUNITY BY DOING THINGS LIKE THIS AND PISSING PEOPLE OFF. AND WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THAT? YOU NEED TO REALIZE THAT WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT BELIEFS AND WE WON'T ALWAYS AGREE. AND AS MUCH AS IT SUCKS THAT CHICK-FIL-A DOESN'T BELIEVE IN GAY MARRIAGE, THAT IS THEIR RIGHT. THEY DO NOT TURN GAY PEOPLE AWAY FROM THEIR RESTAURANT EITHER. AND TO BE PERFECTLY HONEST, YOU ARE BEING NO BETTER THAN HATEFUL PEOPLE BY *FORCING* YOUR BELIEFS ONTO OTHERS THAT MAY NOT WANT THAT.ACT UP AND QUEER NATION USED KISS-INS BACK IN THE DAY PRECISELY TO PISS PEOPLE OFF. LET'S SEE HOW IT WORKS THIS TIME.