The Chick-fil-A Controversy Is About Religious Bullying, Not Chicken Sandwiches

Perhaps Mike Huckabee’s scheduling of his “appreciation day” is to blame, but there is a valid reason why Chick-fil-A has continued to occupy a prominent space in the news cycle. But despite what many detractors are now trying to claim, it has nothing to do with chicken. The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri’s mantra, “Judge the sandwich by the sandwich,” exemplifies this emerging attitude that the Chick-fil-A story is irrelevant. Petri, herself a supporter of marriage equality, thinks that the whole situation is a waste of time:

We are getting real life confused with politics, always a dangerous move. In politics, people seldom make much of anything. Gaffes. Pronouncements. Manufactured indignation. That’s about it. When the only thing you make is statements, you should be judged by the statements. That’s why we spend so much time going through all the remarks and half-quotes and misquotes with fine-toothed combs. But if you make anything besides remarks …

Judge the sandwich by the sandwich.

Is this a selfish position? Yes. But it’s consistent. If you want a world where your restaurateurs have to agree with you, you are going to be missing out on a lot of excellent sandwiches. And that is not a world I’d like to live in.

Petri might not wish to admit this, but she debunks her own argument. The position is selfish, but she gets the explanation wrong. The Chick-fil-A story is an important test for all people who claim to support LGBT equality, whether they themselves identify as LGBT or allies. It takes a certain amount of courage to say, “I support marriage equality,” and a different level of courage to say, “I’m not going to buy tasty chicken sandwiches because I know the profits are used to harm LGBT people.” Petri, like the Log Cabin Republicans’ R. Clarke Cooper, can’t be bothered with the task of actually taking personal responsibility to defend LGBT people if it means living in a world without “a lot of excellent sandwiches.”

There is a very obvious reason why all of the conservatives defending Chick-fil-A only talk about it as defending “traditional marriage,” ignoring president Dan Cathy’s vitriolic comments and the company’s odious donations. They want to minimize the validity for outrage and reduce the issue to one of mere First Amendment privilege. Conceding to that spin allows the true harm of funding ex-gay ministries and anti-gay hate groups to go unchecked. Chick-fil-A and its president Dan Cathy are nothing short of religious bullies, and attacking the LGBT community for standing up for themselves is an expression of either ignorance in regards to Chick-fil-A’s offenses, apathy for LGBT equality, laziness, or a combination of all three.

It’s worth noting that there have been no nationwide calls for boycotts of Chick-fil-A. Most of the efforts have been awareness-raising protests and verbal rebukes. In response to Huckabee’s “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” one group is calling on people to donate the cost of a chicken dinner (about $6.50) to support an LGBT advocacy organization. A world where LGBT people are free of bullying, violence, harassment, discrimination, income inequality, and health inequity sounds like a much better world than any chicken sandwich could define.