July 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
HRC stages lunch time protest of Chick Fil-A food truck

Human Rights Campaign, HRC, Chick-fil-A, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign-backed protesters in Washington D.C. say fast-food company donates millions to anti-gay groups, and criticize recent well-publicized anti-gay statements by the company’s President. (Washington Blade photo by Phil Reese)

About 25 gay rights protesters formed a picket line in front of a Chick-fil-A food truck parked at a crowded street corner in downtown D.C. on Thursday, informing customers of the fast food chain that the company donates millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups and causes.

The lunch hour protest, organized by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, was aimed at drawing attention to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage and his financial support for groups seeking to ban same-sex marriage, according to HRC spokesperson Dan Rafter.

“HRC respects the right of Dan Cathy and of anyone to have their personal beliefs,” Rafter said. “But consumers need to know that Cathy’s personal beliefs are influencing how this company donates to organizations. So we’re out here today to make sure everyone knows where the money they’re spending with Chick-fil-A is going.”

The protesters, most of whom were HRC staffers, handed out fliers quoting anti-gay comments made by Dan Cathy and listing individual donations made by Cathy on behalf of the company to various anti-LGBT groups.

The Chick-fil-A food truck was among about a half dozen food trucks parked on 12th and G Streets, N.W., next to a Metro subway entrance, as the protesters arrived carrying signs and chanting slogans such as “Chick-fil-A, Anti-Gay” and “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Homophobia’s Got to Go.”

The fast food company’s popularity became evident, however, when the number of people waiting on line to buy their lunch from the Chick-fil-A food truck far exceeded those patronizing the other food trucks and was about equal to the number of protesters.

“This is kind of conflicting for me because I have gay friends but I also like Chick-fil-A too,” said Hank Butler, an Arlington, Va., resident who said he works in a nearby office building. “I enjoy it so I’m going to keep eating it.”

Others walking past the crowded sidewalk where the protesters stood, both gay and straight, said they agree with the protesters and have chosen to stop patronizing Chick-fil-A, a privately held, family owned company with annual sales in 2011 that exceeded $4.1 billion, according to information posted on the company’s website.

“I’m definitely not going to have anything to do with Chick-fil-A,” said a young man who identified himself only as Bill and said he was straight. “I support civil rights for everyone, and what Chick-fil-A is doing is wrong.”

The Chick-fil-A website says the company has “quick service chicken restaurants” in over 1,615 locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C. The site shows only one D.C. site located on the campus of Catholic University. Others are located in suburban Virginia and Maryland.

Cathy, the company’s president and CEO, created a stir earlier this year when he stated on a radio show that people advocating for same-sex marriage were “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”

HRC’s Rafter said HRC has stopped short of calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A, saying group’s main objective is to inform people of the company’s hostile views and actions toward LGBT rights.

According to HRC, Chick-fil-A has contributed $500,000 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a group that has publicly denounced the “impure lifestyle” of LGBT people. The company has also contributed $1.1 million to the Marriage and Family Foundation, which advocates against same-sex marriage rights.

“HRC is sending a loud and clear message to Chick-fil-A: we will not rest until your consumers know that you take their money and hand it over to groups that actively work to demonize LGBT people,” said Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications.

A spokesperson for the company couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • a family who owns a chicken cooking business gives gobs of money to a christian athletic org and to foster homes to help children is ostracized b/c it made the comment that they were a family owned business and believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman. ok. so what? that gives a bunch of ppl who believe differently the right to boycott yhem? puhlease! it is the CfA family/company’s right to believe whatever they wish. it’s the right of all the gay ppl to believe whatever they wish but i don’t think it’s their right to boycott CfA because of CfA’s beliefs and wishes. CfA hires gay ppl so the gay ppl should stop trying to force their beliefs down our throats. everyone has the right to believe as they want without facing retribution from others. can’t we all just get along?

    • I agree. These people’s rights aren’t being violated at all. Everyone has a right to their personal opinion. The problem these days is that liberal leftists can’t tolerate even a discussion about Christian values. They scream about their rights while at the same time trying to rob conservatives of THEIR RIGHT to freely express their opinions. The hypocrisy is unbelievable.

  • Wanda would you pose the same argument if CfA’s CEO said that he believed that interracial marriage was going to bring out the judgment of God upon the U.S.? I didn’t think so. Think about it before you defend bigots like Cathy. Sure people have every right to be bigots and to speak out loud and clear about their bigotry and couch it in the sugarcoated form of “Godly, Biblical Family Values” and believe their bigotry wholeheartedly but their words also have consequences.

  • Cathy is not a bigot. He stands for God. Bigotry is a word you liberals use when you dont agree with the opposition. Your words Benjamin have consequences as well. You and I and everyone who ever lived will have to relive their words and actions come Judgement day as it is replayed before our creator.

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