When Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy was interviewed last month by the conservative Christian online news wire service Baptist Press, he openly declared the company’s steadfast support of what he called the traditional family, a euphemism for families led by heterosexual couples. “Well, guilty as charged,” was Cathy’s response.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said in the now infamous article. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Cathy went on to say, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Chick-fil-A has come under fire in the past – and is being taken to task again in light of Cathy’s recent statements – for donating millions of dollars through its WinShape Foundation charitable arm to conservative faith-based organizations that work to oppose gay equality and same-sex marriage, including Exodus International, the Family Research Council, the National Christian Foundation, and the Marriage and Family Foundation.
Cathy’s statements to Baptist Press quickly sparked outrage among GLBT activists and equal-rights organizations across the country. The wildfire of indignation continued to spread uncontrolled as more GLBT groups, their supporters, and straight allies rose up in a unified force against what has widely been seen as another case of faith-based discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. Numerous protests have arisen on both sides of the controversy.
Atlanta’s Marci Alt and her wife Marlysa Brooks-Alt are two local gay activists who recently extended an invitation to Cathy, via online petition on Change.org, to join their family for a meal so that he can see what a gay family looks like.
“It’s not like a demonstration. I would hope Mr. Cathy would come to our home and experience the warmth we have for our family,” Brooks-Alt told David Atlanta. “My objective would be not to change his view, but to open his eyes so he can see that, as gay parents, we deserve the same rights he has as a hetero. I would hope that after coming to our home, he would reflect and see a loving family, with strong role models for our children.”
Concurs Alt, “I would love Dan to sit down with us and experience our dinner time. He would experience us blessing our food, being thankful for the day, and he could hear firsthand our children tell us about their day. I would hope after meeting with us, he would see how well rounded and strong our family is and that we deserve the same rights afforded to any heterosexual couple. He would also see that we are raising our children with strong family values and lots of love.”
Alt, 48, and Brooks-Alt, 36, met over eleven years ago in the offices of the Gay Community Yellow Pages, which Alt has owned for over 20 years. They were married at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in June 2004. The couple now have a daughter, 7, and a son, 2. Alt is a co-owner of Carma Productions, Inc., which also produces Gayborhoodapp, an onling GLBTQ resource directory. Her wife Brooks-Alt teaches voice and piano and operates Come Play With Us, a children’s musical theater company.
What actually preceded the dinner invitation to Cathy, however, was an August 3 rally outside the Decatur, Georgia, location of Chick-fil-A. Alt and Brooks-Alt got the idea to stage the rally and approached the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) for help in publicizing it nationally. Alt said the protest was peaceful and was not met with opposition from Chick-fil-A supporters or customers who were dining inside the restaurant.
It was during the discussions with GLAAD about the rally that the couple was inspired to follow up with the dinner invitation.
“We thought it was a great idea for Dan Cathy to see a typical dinner with an LGBTQ family,” Alt and Brooks-Alt said.
One of the prevailing arguments from the conservative side of the conflagration has been that, as a privately-owned and family-run company, Chick-fil-A can legally and idealistically be operated on the foundation of the Cathy family’s Christian beliefs. GLBT’s and their allies, however, have felt that a company that serves the diverse general public should not operate on exclusionary religious principles.
“Dan Cathy absolutely has the right to operate his business as he deems fit. However, we as the consumer have the right to voice our grievance and if we are not happy with the answer the company provides, we don’t have to patronize their establishment,” said Alt and Brooks-Alt. “We would hope that as a restaurant for the public, he would take into consideration the LGBTQ communities and stop funneling his money to anti-gay groups or to hate groups.”
An August 1 nationwide “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” observed by supporters of the fast food chain allegedly set a sales record for the company. With such massive support still in place for Chick-fil-A, GLBT’s could be seen as waging a daunting David-versus-Goliath battle, but it’s a fight that Alt and Brooks-Alt feel is worth the effort and is slowly having an effect.
“What we do know is that since the protest, Chick-fil-A’s approval rating has dropped and more and more people are aware of the organizations that this company contributes to. We also believe as this has come out publicly, people are more angered to know that [Dan Cathy] supports such hate groups,” they said.
“I can only hope one day this kind of discrimination will end,” said Alt. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it will truly end in my lifetime, so I’ll continue to fight for equality for my children and for my grandchildren’s rights.”