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HRC stages lunch time protest of Chick Fil-A food truck

Protesters say fast-food company donates millions to anti-gay groups

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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.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. wanda

    July 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    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?

    • pixie

      July 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      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.

  2. Benjamin

    August 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    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.

  3. Messenger

    August 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    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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D.C. gay activist Phil Pannell recovering from ‘breakthrough’ COVID infection

‘It hit me like a ton of bricks’

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Phil Pannell is urging everyone to get vaccinated. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate and Ward 8 community organizer Phil Pannell says his hospitalization last week for illness caused by a COVID-19 infection after he had been fully vaccinated has prompted him to continue to urge city residents to get vaccinated.

The Washington City Paper reports that Pannell was taken to a hospital emergency room on Saturday, Oct. 23, after he collapsed while participating in a rally with about 400 others for D.C. statehood and voting rights at a site near the U.S. Capitol.

Pannell told the Washington Blade he was recovering at home this week. The City Paper reports that while recuperating he found the strength to attend a virtual meeting of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, for which he serves as executive director, to use his experience coping with COVID to promote the vaccine.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks when the doctor told me that,” Pannell told the meeting, the City Paper reports. “Because first, I’m fully vaccinated. I’ve been very attentive to wearing masks when I’m in enclosed spaces,” the City Paper quoted him as saying. “Even being as careful as I could, I still contracted the virus.”

Pannell, 71, told the City Paper his doctors said his vaccination status saved him from having to go on a ventilator and possibly saved his life.

Public health experts have said there is no vaccine that is 100 percent effective in preventing a specific disease 100 percent of the time. But officials with the U.S. National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases have said the COVID vaccines are highly effective in preventing infection and in preventing serious illness and death for those who become infected.

A longtime member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the D.C. LGBTQ political group that recently changed its name to the Capital Stonewall Democrats, Pannell has been credited with persuading the city’s LGBTQ organizations and activists to reach out more to LGBTQ residents east of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8.

Pannell has expressed concern in recent months that the highest numbers of city residents who remain unvaccinated are Black men who live in Wards 7 and 8. He has been outspoken in calling on all city residents in all parts of the city, especially those living east of the river, to get vaccinated. 

“Please, everyone, spread the word [to] get vaccinated,” the City Paper quoted Pannell as saying. “If I had not been vaccinated, the doctor made it very clear…the situation could have been far worse.”

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17th Street High Heel Race draws large crowd

D.C. Mayor, three Council members, police chief mingle with drag queens

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34th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 1,000 spectators turned out Tuesday night to watch D.C.’s 34th Annual 17th Street High Heel Race in which several dozen men dressed in drag and wearing colorful high heel shoes raced along a three-block stretch of 17th Street near Dupont Circle.

As she has in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office organizes the annual event, gave the official signal for the runners to start the race from a stage at the intersection of 17th and R streets, N.W. 

Joining the mayor on the stage was Japer Bowles, who Bowser recently named as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which plays the lead role in organizing the High Heel Race. 

Also appearing on stage after being introduced by Bowser were D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2).

Bowser, who along with the three Council members delivered brief remarks before the start of the race, said the event highlights the city’s diversity and resilience coming after over a year of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we want the world to know – that even in a pandemic, even when we had to trim the budget, we stayed focused on how we can make life better for our LGBTQ community,” Bowser told the crowd. “And we’re going to keep on doing it,” she said. “We’re investing in making sure everybody in our community is accepted and safe.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, who walked along the three-block section of 17th Street before the race began, was greeted warmly by bystanders, some of whom called out his name to welcome him to what has become the city’s largest Halloween celebration.

“This is a great event,” Contee told the Washington Blade. “I enjoy coming out to be among D.C. residents and all who find our D.C. culture,” he said. “It’s just a great evening, so we’re happy to be out here supporting our community.”

Members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit were among the police contingent on duty at the event and overseeing the closing of the streets surrounding 17th Street.

Like past years, many of the race participants and dozens of others dressed in Halloween costumes paraded up and down 17th Street beginning at 6:30 p.m., more than two hours before the start of the race, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.  

However, the mayor this year gave the signal to start the race at about 8:35 p.m. Although a large number of drag runners participated in the race, some who planned to join the race didn’t make it to the starting line in time because they expected the race to begin at 9 p.m. as advertised, according to people in the crowd who knew those who missed the race.

To ensure that everyone had an opportunity to participate, Bowles and others from the mayor’s office agreed to hold a second race about a half hour after the first one. The number of participants in the second race appeared to be about the same as those who joined the first race, indicating many of the drag participants ran twice.

“This is a special treat,” said one bystander. “We got to see two races instead of one.” 

The High Heel Race was cancelled last year due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. Many in the crowd watching the race on Tuesday night said they were delighted the city decided to go ahead with the event this year at a time when other large events continue to be canceled or postponed.

Also similar to past years when the High Heel Race took place, the restaurants and bars that line 17th Street were filled on Tuesday night, including the gay bars JR.’s and Windows as well as the longtime LGBTQ-friendly Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.

Prior to the mayor’s arrival, gay local radio and TV personality Jimmy Alexander of DCW 50 TV served as host to a drag show and costume contest on the stage. DCW 50 also set up and hosted a separate stage on the sidewalk next to JR.’s bar in which race participants and others dressed in costumes were invited to have their pictures taken and provided with copies of the photos of themselves.

“I think it’s amazing,” Bowser told the Blade after the completion of the first race. “It’s good to be back. It was tough missing a year of activities,” she said referring to the business shutdowns brought about by the pandemic. “We had a lot of great, beautiful racers. And so, I’m really excited about it.”

To see more photos from this event, click here.

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Gay attorney’s plans to run for Del. Senate foiled by redistricting

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote

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Mitch Crane, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay Democratic activist Mitch Crane. (Photo courtesy Crane)

Plans by Delaware gay attorney and Democratic Party activist Mitch Crane to run for a seat in the Delaware State Senate in a district that included areas surrounding the town of Lewes, where Crane lives, and Rehoboth Beach ended abruptly this week when state officials approved a redistricting plan that removes Crane’s residence from the district.

The seat for which Crane planned to run is in Delaware’s 6th Senate District which, in addition to Lewes and Rehoboth, includes the towns of Dewey Beach, Harbeson, Milton, and surrounding areas, according to the state Senate’s website. 

The seat is currently held by Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez, a moderate Republican who became the first Hispanic American elected to the Delaware Senate in 2012. Lopez announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2022. 

The redistricting plan, which was approved by leaders of the Democratic-controlled Delaware General Assembly, places the section of the Lewes postal district where Crane lives into the 19th Senate District. Crane said that district is in a heavily Republican and conservative part of the state dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump who remain Trump supporters.

Under Delaware law, changes in the district lines of state Senate and House districts, which takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, are decided by the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislative body.

Crane told the Washington Blade that neither he nor any other Democrat would have a realistic chance of winning the State Senate seat next year in the 19th District.

“Jesus could not win in that district if he was a Democrat,” said Crane.

Crane said a Democratic candidate could win next year in the reconfigured 6th Senate District now that incumbent Lopez will not be seeking re-election.

The Cape Gazette, the Delaware newspaper, reported in an Oct. 22 story that Crane was one of at least two witnesses that testified at a two-day virtual hearing held Oct. 18-19 by a State Senate committee, that the proposed redistricting would dilute the LGBTQ vote in the 6th District and the draft proposal should be changed.

 “The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ residents from the current 6th District where most of such residents of southern Delaware live and place them in the 19th District which has a smaller such population,” the Cape Gazette quoted Crane telling the committee. “By doing so, it dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community in addition to others who respect diversity,” the Cape Gazette quoted 6th District resident Sandy Spence as telling the committee. 

In an Oct. 10 email sent to potential supporters before the redistricting plan was approved, Crane said he believes he has the experience and record that make him a strong candidate for the state Senate seat. He is a former chair of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where Rehoboth and Lewes are located; and he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University’s graduate school, where he teaches American Governance and Administration.

He is a past president of the Delaware Stonewall PAC, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, and he’s the state’s former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.

 “I intend to focus on smart growth in Sussex County; work on the problems of homelessness and the need for affordable housing; and assuring that this district receives its fair portion of tax dollars,” he said in his Oct. 10 email message announcing his candidacy.

Crane said he posted a Facebook message on Oct. 26 informing supporters that the redrawn district lines removed him from the district, and he is no longer a candidate.

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