Gay and lesbian groups across the country have launched campaigns to remove Chick-fil-A from campuses in response to the fast food restaurant providing sandwiches and brownies for a traditional marriage conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
While the institute doesn’t take any explicit stance on same-sex marriage, FamilyLife, the organization that created the conference, does. According to its website, FamilyLife’s mission is to promote “private consummation between one man and one woman, never between the same sex.”
Chick-fil-A’s involvement in the conference ignited a national debate on gay rights in the context of corporate practices and consumer awareness. The most focused discussions took place on campuses across the country.
Students at various colleges and universities campaigned to have the fast food restaurant removed from campus dining areas. Indiana University at South Bend had its once-a-week sale of Chick-fil-A food halted for administrative review of the franchise and its policies. The university has since reinstated the practice.
Other universities, like Florida Gulf Coast University and Duke University, have also reviewed their relationships with Chick-fil-A. Jake Glaizer, a graduate student at Western Illinois University, decided to protest the restaurant’s presence on his campus.
Glaizer thinks that Chick-fil-A’s business culture is unfriendly toward the gay community–something most students aren’t aware of.
“I believe that students have a moral obligation to lobby for the fast food chain’s removal,” he wrote in an editorial for the university’s student newspaper, the Western Courier. “Anything less would be inconsistent with Western’s values and a missed opportunity to stand up for what is right.”
Chick-fil-A makes no attempt to hide its Christian origins. S. Truett Cathy, the company’s founder, has always maintained a policy of closing the restaurant on Sundays. On its website, Chick-fil-A proclaims that its corporate purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”
This philosophy, though, doesn’t resonate with all consumers. Glaizer said that just because the company is privately owned doesn’t mean it should behave this way.
“Well, yes, Chick-fil-A is independently owned, but, morally, I think, where do you take the stand? You need to take the stand somewhere,” Glaizer said.
The backlash caused Chick-fil-A’s current president and COO, Dan Cathy, to explain the chain’s stance toward the gay community in an online video, saying Chick-fil-A serves “all people and values all people.” In a second press release, Cathy explained that while his family believes in the biblical definition of marriage, the restaurant itself “will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family.”
Ted Martin, executive director of the gay rights organization Equality Pennsylvania, said that while he respects the company for being clear on its values, consumers should be made aware of where their money is going when they buy from Chick-fil-A.
“The bottom line is when you put that out there, you have to be prepared for a response,” Martin said.