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.