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Chick-fil-A ‘Appreciation Day’ round-up: Intolerance on display

Wednesday was Mike Huckabee’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, and opponents of marriage equality turned out in droves to proudly support the anti-gay restaurant chain. Religious bullying was on display at locations around the country as people as the media continued to conflate homophobia with Christianity.

Here’s a round-up of the latest news in the Chick-fil-A controversy:

FRED BLOCHER, The Kansas City Sta
Kansas City's Chick-fil-A, like locations across the country, had a line out the door yesterday.

From The Chicken’s Mouth

Chick-fil-A was officially quiet yesterday, not tweeting anything, and saying only that “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was not created by Chick-fil-A.” Given it’s not a publicly traded company, there will not be any public information about yesterday’s likely record-high sales. But according to Pastor Rick Warren, who is well known for his opposition to LGBT equality, Dan Cathy called to say it was a “world record day.”

It’s important to recognize that unlike other fast food chains, Chick-fil-A franchises are not independently owned, limiting the extent that local operators can speak out. That didn’t stop Lauren Silich, who runs Chicago’s only Chick-fil-A, from speaking out about her support for LGBT equality, though she would not specifically address the question of same-sex marriage.

Gay and lesbian employees of Chick-fil-A had perhaps the most disheartening reaction to the day. An Alabama gay staffer named Andrew described the day as “hater appreciation day,” calling it “very, very depressing.” A gay employee at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta heard a customer say, “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace.” Another in Colorado had customers telling him, “I support your company, because your company hates the gays.” Many report experiencing homophobia not just from customers, but from fellow employees as well.

The Media Cries Fowl

Unfortunately, much of the media coverage yesterday was simply an open display of anti-gay views without much to rebut them. Still, there were a few notable highlights. For example, Fox News’ Shep Smith, who supports marriage equality, made a quick jab at Huckabee, pointing out that it was “National Badminton Day,” so “forget National Day of Intolerance, let’s just stay with Badminton.”

Journalist Mark Krzos of The News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida, wrote on Facebook that covering Chick-fil-A yesterday was incredibly disheartening:

I have never felt so alien in my own country as I did today while covering the restaurant’s supporters. The level of hatred, unfounded fear and misinformed people was astoundingly sad. I can’t even print some of the things people said.

Food writer Josh Ozersky wrote in Time Magazine that he has changed his mind on Chick-fil-A, walking back his previous willingness to turn a blind eye: “I respect Chick-fil-A’s owners for taking a love-it-or-leave-it stance in regard to their religion; and, like a lot of people, I am choosing to leave it.”

A Sweet Alternative

A number of restaurants across the country offered alternatives to Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day:

  • Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen in New York City announced it would donate proceeds from its sales to Marriage Equality USA.
  • The Sweet Avenue Bake Shop in Rutherford, New Jersey offered “Rainbow Pride” cupcakes with proceeds supporting Garden State Equality.
  • Lake Worth, Florida held a “Celebrate Community & Diversity Day,” which included a Pajama Party to support diversity and LGBT businesses.
  • The Chicago-based Hearty restaurant held “Chick-fil-Gay Appreciation Day,” donating 100 percent of sales from its fried chicken breast sandwiches to Equality Illinois.
  • Chef Art Smith, who was once Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, held a “Flick-the-hate” Chicken Fry at his personal residence in Chicago, asking guests to donate $100 or more each to support Equality Illinois.

And numbers are still being tallied, but LGBT equality groups raised tens of thousands of dollars yesterday thanks to a Facebook event encouraging people to donate the cost of a chicken dinner for marriage equality.

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