In Wake of Chick-fil-A Flap, Anti-Gay Blog Calls for Chili’s Boycott

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday February 10, 2011

Compare and contrast: conservative columnist Michelle Malkin criticizes the media and "liberals" for the acrimony restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has endured in the wake of revelations that the chain supports anti-gay groups and finances fundamentalist Christian organizations. "Here's a modest proposal for liberals who say they support job creation: Stop smearing successful, law-abiding private companies whose values don't comport with yours," Malkin wrote in a Feb. 4 column.

But conservative blogger Pete LaBarbera, the main (perhaps the sole) force behind virulently anti-gay (and, some contend, wildly misnomered) website Americans for Truth About Homosexuality calls for good Christian families to boycott Chili's restaurants for the shocking offense of supporting a GLBT equality advocacy group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. In other words--Malkin's words, actually--LaBarbera is "smearing [a] successful, law-abiding private compan[y] whose values don't comport with yours." Perhaps LaBarbera didn't get the memo.

"Chick-fil-A is one of the only large American companies (Domino Pizza under Tom Monaghan was another) with conservative Christianity an integral part of its corporate culture," EDGE reported in a Jan. 31 article. A Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A "sponsored a marriage seminar by the Pennsylvania Family Institute, the state's major anti-gay marriage force, on 'The Art of Marriage,' " the EDGE article reported. "Once the news became public, gay blogs lit up with protests which spread across the Internet--and across the country."

"Chick-fil-A is an American success story," Malkin noted in her column. "It employs some 50,000 workers across the country at 1,500 outlets in nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia. The company generates more than $2 billion in revenue." Malkin went on to refer to critics of the anti-gay groups Chick-fil-A supported as "hysterical bullies," and conjured an image of "fist-wielding" mobs menacing "supporters of... traditional marriage" in California during the deeply divisive and bitter campaign to pass Proposition 8 and yank then-existing civil marriage rights from gay and lesbian families. In short, calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A constituted an unwarranted threat to a business run by a family with strong traditional Christian values.

"If you want to take a small step to stand up for family and marriage, take your family out to Chick-fil-A--and drive right by when you see a Chili's," LaBarbera exhorted his audience, after making a number of claims about the Task Force, including charges that the equality group works to eradicate "all sex-oriented laws in the United States," pushes "polyamory," and is engaged in a campaign to eliminate gender-specific restrooms. "There is much, much more," LaBarbera wrote, going on to exclaim, somewhat cryptically, "the homosexual Task Force puts the 'D' back in 'Deviance,' that's for sure." In short, LaBarbera was calling for a boycott of a business that lent its support to America's sexual minorities in their pursuit of equal protection before the law.

Moreover, as EDGE reported in its earlier article, once Chick-fil-A head Dan Cathy vowed that his family's company would "not champion any political agendas on marriage and family," anti-gay elements from the extreme right fringe promptly vowed to take their business elsewhere, an indication that the "liberals" excoriated by Malkin in her column were scarcely alone in their disinclination to toss their dollars at a business "whose values [didn't] comport with" their own.

Or, as GLBT blog back2stonewall's Will Kohler put it, "Chick-fil-A can sponsor who they want. It's a free country. But they shouldn't get upset when they get found out supporting issues and ideas that discriminate against a section of their customers," a comment that might apply equally to infuriated former patrons on both sides of the political spectrum.

Meantime, here's what Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy, son of the chain's founder Truett Cathy, had to say to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "We're not anti-anybody." Added Cathy, "We've opted not to get involved in the political debate. It's never been our agenda."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.