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Chick-fil-A protests: Will petition and 'kiss-in' help or hurt?

August 02, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Gilbert, Ariz., saw hundreds of customers for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on Wednesday.
A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Gilbert, Ariz., saw hundreds of customers… (Matt York / Associated Press…)

The Chick-fil-A protests appear to be just getting started, with two new campaigns underway. (You didn't think this controversy was going away anytime soon, did you?)

In one campaign, Marci Alt of Atlanta has posted a petition on Change.org inviting Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy to join her family -- including her wife and their two children -- for dinner. She wants to offer him a first-hand look at a family being hurt by the company's political and social activism against gays and lesbians.

The second campaign encourages members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to participate in a same-sex "kiss-in" Friday at Chick-fil-A outlets nationwide. Both events -- as well as overarching calls to boycott the company -- have the backing of GLAAD.

PHOTOS: Chick-fil-A protest photos

"Without question, Dan Cathy has every right to voice his opinions and beliefs," Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a statement released to the Los Angeles Times. "But he should meet and get to know the people ... harmed by his company’s multimillion-dollar donations."

Graddick said he was referring to more than $5 million in donations that Chick-fil-A has given to anti-LGBT organizations. Graddick said in his statement that those organizations included the American Family Assn. and Family Research Council. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, describes both groups as being actively "anti-gay."

Graddick said the fast-food chain also donated to groups that promoted a controversial therapeutic approach to "turn" people from gay to straight.

The kiss-in, meanwhile, has some gay and lesbian supporters questioning whether such outward displays of affection will ultimately help or hurt their cause.

"We are encouraging those of us who support LGBT rights and LGBT equality to show up at their local Chick-fil-A tomorrow and kiss someone of the same sex," said Carly McGehee, a New York-based political activist who started the idea for the kiss-in.

The campaigns follow Wednesday's stunning turnout for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, a day on which Americans were urged to support the company. The company did not release sales figures but said it was a "record-setting day."

Nationwide, at least 15,000 people have agreed to participate in the kiss-in, McGehee said. But even among LGBT supporters, some wonder whether such an in-your-face act might be too provocative, or amount to taunting.

"I respect not patronizing their establishment ... but by taunting them in their establishment is hate-filled and inciting anger and hate," said one commenter on a Causes.com page urging people to participate in the kiss-in.

Suggested another: "Its okay to disagree but its not okay to confront a person on their views in such an aggressive and provocative manner. There are forums for that."

McGehee told the Los Angeles Times that she encouraged participants to be "polite and tasteful."

"This is about us showing our love.... We're not encouraging people to be outrageous or lewd."

She said the protest was less about trying to change the minds of people who are offended by LGBT love, and more about encouraging young people who are frightened to embrace their sexual orientation. "We want to tell young people, you are OK just the way you are."

For its part, Chick-fil-A said it would not comment further beyond its statement about Wednesday's sales setting a record.

As for Friday's protests, the company says it's ready: "We understand from news reports that Friday may present yet another opportunity for us to serve with genuine hospitality, superior service and great food."

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+ and Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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