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August 10, 2012

Dozens turn out for kiss-ins at Ohio chicken eateries

Cincinnati--Around 75 people turned out on August 3 to hold a kiss-in at Chick-fil-A in Cincinnati, one of five protests organized around the state as part of a national day in response to the fast food chain’s donations to anti-gay groups.

Organizers noted that the management of the restaurant in suburban West Chester gave them free ice water during the midday protest, and were “cooperative and helpful.” But a trailer in the parking lot, with signs bearing religious slogans, played “Amazing Grace” repeatedly for the duration of the two-hour event.

In addition to the Cincinnati protest, spearheaded by Adam Hoover, there were other protests in Dayton, Columbus, Cuyahoga Falls and Boardman.

The kiss-ins came two days after conservatives held a day of protest in which they tried to reframe the debate as being about CEO Dan Cathy’s freedom of speech, as opposed to the fact that he had confirmed that the company was opposed to same-sex marriage and its charitable arm had donated millions to anti-gay organizations.

The August 1 day of support organized by conservatives, which drew former presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, marked the company’s busiest day, with some stores running out of chicken.

Huckabee and the evangelical movement, posited gay writer Michelangelo Signorile, won the fight because of their ability to recast the struggle as being over free speech for Dan Cathy, as opposed to donations by Winshape Foundation, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm.

Signorile also said that, because the pro-gay response was coming from blogs, grassroots organizers and social media, there was no cohesive response from the LGBT community to draw the focus back on those millions of dollars of donations to groups, at least one of which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“These people are hypocrites who cared nothing about the First Amendment when they went on a religious crusade against Muslims, trying to stop construction of the Islamic center near ground zero back in 2010,” Signorile wrote on the Huffington Post. “Now, while they crusade against gays, with millions of dollars from Chick-fil-A’s profits going to groups that promote harmful pray-away-the-gay therapies, they’re crying about the First Amendment? Please.”

In the midst of the flap, mayors in Chicago and Boston said they would not grant permission for franchises of the restaurant chain to open in their cities, and a Philadelphia city councilor wrote a letter to the chain’s office complaining about their stances.

On college campuses, however, students are also protesting the restaurant, leading to some universities dropping plans to allow the vendor on campus. At Loyola University, the National Lawyers Guild chapter has had a boycott in effect of their campus’ Chick-fil-A for a year, but it was not well-known off campus until now. The Loyola location is currently the only Chicago outlet.

The NLG pointed out in a press release that, while it would be illegal to prevent franchises from opening based on the owners’ statements, other corporate policies provide “bedrock” legal grounds for stopping expansion. They point out that the founder, Truett Cathy, preferred married employees, and required would-be franchisees to give their marital status, number of children and community involvement.

“Not only does this discriminate against singles in general, but also people in same-sex relationships who, like in Illinois, are not allowed to marry,” the release from the National Lawyers Guild Loyola chapter. “For those LGBTI people who do get employed by Chick-fil-A, the corporate culture could be interpreted as constituting a hostile working environment against them. This may not be illegal in much of Chick-fil-A’s southern bastions, but is so in Illinois.”




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