Chick-fil-A billionaire CEO says his anti-gay marriage statements hurt business

ChickFilA-ChickenSandwich-e1395231520696Forbes magazine reported that in the summer of 2012, the billionaire family behind fast food chain Chick-fil-A found themselves … well, if not in hot water, then in a piping vat of chicken grease.

That year, with same-sex marriage on four state ballots, the scion of Forbes rich list stalwart S. Truett Cathy (net worth: $6.2 billion) hit headlines for taking a public stance against equal rights.

In July, Truett’s son Dan, Chick-fil-A’s CEO, told the Baptist Press he was “guilty as charged” in his support of what he described as traditional marriage.

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy said.

The fast food chain’s in-your-face Christian values weren’t exactly news even then. Forbes ran a story on The Cult of Chick-fil-A in 2007 and its stores closing on Sunday to allow workers to attend church.

Rather, it was Dan Cathy’s reaffirmation of his firm’s same-sex marriage stance that set off a wave of protests, with LGBT kiss-ins at Chick-fil-A stores and even some lampooning via music video, with three drag queens skewering Chick-fil-A to the tune of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On.” (Sample lyric: Some day somebody’s gonna make you wanna gobble up a waffle fry / But no go, don’t you know, Chick-fil-A says you make the baby Jesus cry.)

Now, almost two years later, Dan Cathy — a self-described evangelical Christian — says he made a mistake.

In a rare and wide-ranging interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cathy admitted his anti-equality stance probably wasn’t a wise business decision, regretting “making the company a symbol in the marriage debate:”

“Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development, and it helps by [recognizing] the mistakes that you make,” Cathy said. “And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it.”

Cathy agreed that the “lingering identity” of Chick-fil-A with “anti-gay groups” that jumped to its defense in 2012 has meant “alienating market segments.”

“Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with,” Cathy said. “And it’s probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.”

Cathy himself hasn’t changed his own views on same-sex marriage. As he told the AJC: “I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word, and I’m just personally committed to that. I know others feel very different from that, and I respect their opinion, and I hope that they would be respectful of mine.”

What is clear is that his family’s fried chicken business, which made $4.6 billion in sales in 2012, will be staying out of the fray when it comes to equality.

“I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on,” he told the Journal-Sentinel. “And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service.”

Read more about the billionaire Cathys, including charitable donations to anti-gay-marriage groups, here.

—  Steve Ramos

UPDATE: TCU says anti-gay views ‘irrelevant’ in Chick-fil-A decision

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UPDATE: TCU spokeswoman Lisa Albert said the anti-gay controversy with Chick-fil-A wasn’t relevant to the conversations that began in the spring to bring the restaurant to campus.

Albert said university dining officials started student focus groups to determine what would drive them to the 1873 restaurant on campus to help limit an overflow of traffic at the campus dining hall. She added that while the company’s anti-gay reviews were likely “part of the conversation” in the focus groups, students have been asking for a Chick-fil-A for years.

“I think that the controversy was sort of irrelevant,” she said. “This was about what the students were wanting.”

She said the decision to bring Chick-fil-A to the university’s campus was made in the spring based on continued input from students about having it brought on campus. The announcement was made in the summer because that’s when the contracts were signed.

Albert said the university partners with several vendors and companies, including a Starbucks on campus, but officials don’t “support any political or personal opinions of those vendors.”

“I certainly understand the sensitivity within the gay community toward Chick-fil-A, but at the end of the day, [the company’s opinions] don’t reflect the opinions of TCU,” she said.

ORIGINAL POST: When students return to Texas Christian University’s campus for classes on Aug.  19, they’ll have Chick-fil-A as a dining option.

TCU announced internally in late May that the on-campus 1873 restaurant would be converted into a Chick-fil-A and open in the fall. A story followed in the school’s newspaper, but students had already left for the summer and it appears that few people noticed. Now LGBT advocates are questioning why the university chose to allow a controversial anti-gay restaurant chain on campus.

Todd Camp, a Fort Worth LGBT activist and TCU alumnus, said he recently heard about the restaurant coming to campus from a friend and was surprised there hadn’t been upset about it. He said the university knew the news would be controversial so it waited until after students were gone to avoid backlash.

“I find it disingenuous that they didn’t now Chick-fil-A would be controversial,” Camp said.

—  Anna Waugh

Activists plaster windows of Chick-fil-A with pro-equality signs in San Antonio

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Activists in San Antonio plastered the windows of a local Chik-fil-A with pro marriage equality signs last night. Watch video from KENS 5 below.

—  John Wright

Paris restaurant owner denies anti-gay rant but admits Chick-fil-A promotion

A tipster over in Paris (Texas, that is) alerted us to this Topix.com thread which accuses a restaurant owner in the East Texas town of making “anti-gay hate speech publicly.” The thread provides few concrete details of the allegation, but here’s the first comment:

Those present who heard it were shocked at the homophobic rant that he launched into, hate speech rhetoric such as “fa**ots are taking over everywhere”. Gay and lesbian community- of which HE HAD SEVERAL GOOD CUSTOMERS- will now be boycotting the establishment…

Read all 120 subsequent responses for yourself if you have time, but the restaurant owner, Drew Crawford of Crawford’s Hole in the Wall, told Instant Tea it’s not true.

“It sounds to me like somebody just had a grudge and like they started up something,” said Crawford, who’s owned the restaurant a block from the Lamar County Courthouse for the last 10 years. “Somebody says I made a speech bashing gays. It’s not true. I’ve never bashed anybody.”

Crawford did, however, acknowledge that this summer, at the height of the Chick-fil-A controversy, his restaurant offered free lunches to people who presented receipts from the chicken chain. He said an employee posted the promotion on the restaurant’s Facebook page — and we found the above photo on Flickr of the promotion advertised in chalk on an exterior door of the restaurant.

Crawford compared it to other periodic promotions, such as  free lunch for anyone who works in a hospital. Because the nearest Chick-fil-A is in Sherman, he said the restaurant gave away only one lunch valued at $7. Crawford said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. But he said he doesn’t hate gay people, he has regular customers who are gay, and everyone is welcome in his restaurant regardless of sexual orientation.

“Do I like Chick-fil-A? Yes. do I like waffle fries? Yes. Am I married to a woman? Yes. Do I have kids? Yes. Everybody’s got their opinions,” Crawford said.

“Do I support gay rights or whatever? No, I don’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that, just like if the gay community doesn’t support something we do, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Crawford said. “Somebody just states their opinion, and then you turn it into, ‘I hate queers and hate faggots.’ … There’s never been a speech. There’s never been nothing.”

Or at least nothing we can verify at this point other than a promotion supporting a company that’s funneled millions to anti-gay hate groups over the last few years.

—  John Wright

Chick-fil-A releases statement about recent ‘mischaracterized’ donations

Couple Tyler Savage, left, and Larry Farris at a Dallas Chick-fil-A on Friday, Aug. 3, for National Same-sex Kiss-in Day. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

News about Chick-fil-A no longer funding anti-gay organizations surfaced yesterday with the explanation that the chicken chain would refrain from engaging in “political debates.”

The company released a statement today and a longer “Who We Are” statement, detailing organizations and causes the company donates to.

Among organizations listed in the longer statement is the WinShape Foundation. Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy tweeted a photo this week from the 2012 WinShape Ride for the Family, which The Advocate reports is a fundraiser for an organization that helps lobby against marriage equality.

So, what has changed?

Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer asks just that in a Huffington Post op-ed.

“The fact is that Chick-fil-A has not commented on any of these ‘what if’ statements or shared anything to substantiate the claims by Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno and the Illinois-based Civil Rights Agenda,” he writes. “The only action that Chick-fil-A has taken in recent weeks was to have private conversations in an effort to find ‘common ground,’ and to reiterate the company’s stance through an internal Chick-fil-A memo.”

The statement is below. Go here for the longer document.

Chick-fil-A: Who We Are. A Response to Recent Controversy.

For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized. And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving.

For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized. And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving. For that reason, we want to provide some context and clarity around who we are, what we believe and our priorities in relation to corporate giving.

A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.

As we have stated, the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators.

—  Anna Waugh

Chick-fil-A to end donations to anti-gay groups, draft memo about policies

Couple Tyler Savage, left, and Larry Farris kiss at a Dallas Chick-fil-A Friday, Aug. 3, for National Same-sex Kiss-in Day. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Chick-fil-A is reportedly ending its contributions to anti-gay groups, including Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.

The decision came after discussions this month with Chicago’s Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Moreno made headlines this summer for opposing a new Chick-fil-A in a Westside ward after company President Dan Cathy’s stated opposition to marriage equality. Cathy’s comments sparked debate about civil rights and freedom of speech, along with protests and petitions to kick the restaurant of college campuses, leading to Cathy meeting with LGBT college leaders last month.

Moreno told the Times that the company would not add LGBT protections to its nondiscrimination policy but would send a memo to its restaurants called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.” The memo will state Chick-fil-A’s promise to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender” and to not “engage in political or social debates.”

Moreno told Chicago’s LGBT newspaper, the Windy City Times, that it’s “a win for the LGBT community” and “for everyone who works for the cause of equal rights, and a win for Chick- fil-A. This is a win for all.”

Chick-fil-A has not released an official announcement stating that the company would cease donations to anti-gay organization, but a letter sent to Moreno signed by the company’s senior director states that it is “now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

Donations will now go to foster-care agencies and community service organizations.

—  Anna Waugh

Best Chick-fil-A pics you’ve never seen

I know, I know, everyone’s tired of hearing about Chick-fil-A!

But I’m with Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen, who wrote in a column published by the Voice last week that as long as the chicken chain continues to be known as the right wing’s last stand against LGBT equality, its brand will suffer.

In fact, it was in response to Dallas Voice’s posting of Besen’s column on Facebook that local LGBT activist Elizabeth Parker shared these photos she took on Aug. 3 — the day of the same-sex kiss-ins at Chick-fil-A locations across the country.

Parker reports that she was leaving a nearby store when she stumbled upon these students from the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, north of Dallas. Yes, that would be the same Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in which bigoted Farmers Branch Mayor Timothy O’Hare railed against the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance last year.

Anyhow, Parker went over to snap a few photos and tell the students how much she admired their courage, as they stood outside in the intense heat. She said she was disappointed (but presumably not surprised) that none of the students’ parents chose to stand with their children, but glad that she was able to share her mother with them (that’s Parker’s mom in the shades).

Parker said at one point, a female Chick-fil-A customer walked by and called out, “Fags … you’re going to hell … nobody cares about you!!” The customer then told the driver of a car headed to the drive-thru to “run over them.”

“The students simply stood their ground. I, however, suggested to her that her remarks did not sound exactly Christian,” Parker writes. “So, yeah, they got a taste of what the anti-LGBT side can sound like at LGBT actions of ANY size.”

Isn’t there some kind of award we can give these kids?

—  John Wright

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy meets with college leaders about LGBT issues

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With Chick-fil-A fights breaking out on campuses across the country, including several in North Texas, company CEO Dan Cathy reportedly met with college leaders to discuss LGBT issues in Atlanta on Thursday.

It was Cathy whose anti-gay comments earlier this summer sparked the protest. The details of Thursday’s meeting were brief and given by an unnamed source, but centered around “diversity, hospitality, and the opportunity to find common ground,” according to the source.

Cathy is trying to repair relationships with colleges in an effort to further expansion plans for more on-campus locations across the country, many at large schools.

The University of North Texas was the first of five area colleges to start a petition calling for the university to remove the restaurant from its student union. UTA later followed and members of UTA’s GSA are preparing to present the petition and a resolution to school officials.

SMU officials have already said they would not remove the restaurant from its campus. Kim Schroder, UNT’s associate director of retail dining services, told its student newspaper that the on-campus location wasn’t going anywhere soon.

Schroder said the petitions from a UNT student and a separate one created by an alumnus have not affected business, and the university’s five-year contract with the company would make removing it soon impossible.

—  Anna Waugh

Students protest new Chick-fil-A on campus of UT-Pan American

Students protest the new on-campus Chick-fil-A at the University of Texas-Pan American on Monday, Aug. 27. (Action 4 News)

Students starting classes Monday at the University of Texas-Pan American protested the new on-campus Chick-fil-A.

The campus in Edinburg had several students holding signs explaining that the chicken chain controversy is about civil rights, not free speech.

UTPA’s Atheist Student Organization and the LGBT Alliance also had students sign their petition to ask the university to remove the restaurant, Action 4 News reports.

UTPA released a statement before school started that the university  “was surprised and disappointed by the comments made by Chick-fil-A’s president,” and that it opposes “discrimination in any form.”

Chick-fil-A is on five college campuses in North Texas. Both the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington have started online petitions. A UNT student petition on Change.org  had garnered 469 signatures and the one started by an alumnus has 44 signatures. The UTA petition has 155 signatures.

UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan told Instant Tea that no one had submitted a petition or a formal request yet o replace the on-campus Chick-fil-A.

Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, said the group is working on a resolution to present to university officials alongside the petition. She said she wanted to present the petition to the administration soon.

—  Anna Waugh

Petition calls for removal of Chick-fil-A from UTA campus

Students at the University of Texas at Arlington have started an online petition to remove the Chick-fil-A in the Hereford University Center.

Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, initially said she was conflicted about creating a petition due to concerns student workers would lose their jobs if Chick-fil-A closed. But after speaking to friends and GSA members over the weekend, she said she decided to start the petition. As of Monday afternoon, 65 people had signed it.

Valdez said she was also inspired to take a stand after hearing about the death of Fairness Fort Worth president and UTA alumnus Tom Anable.

“I had never met the man, even though Fairness Fort Worth had done so much for us, so I had really looked forward to shaking his hand one day,” she said. “When that hope was taken away from me, I really just felt this flame inside me: I had to do something. Even though I just had a long day and it was 3 a.m. on a Saturday night/early Sunday, I had to write something.”

Anable was chair of the local steering committee for the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities that took place at UTA in March.

Valdez said Anable and FFW Treasurer David Mack Henderson, also a UTA alumnus, had done so much for the students at UTA and she wanted to continue their work.

“I have to complete what they started, do my part, and continue to make the University of Texas at Arlington the best school it can be, welcoming and open for everyone,” she said.

UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan said she was waiting on the university’s response to the petition before commenting.

Two anti-Chick-fil-A petitions are ongoing at the University of North Texas, one by a student and another by an alumnus. A UNT spokeswoman told Dallas Voice students had the choice not to dine at the on-campus location but would not comment on whether the university would consider removing it.

A spokesman with Southern Methodist University told Dallas Voice last week that the university would not remove the restaurant from campus. SPECTRUM, SMU’s LGBT student group, spoke out against Chick-fil-A but has not announced plans to try to have the on-campus location removed.

—  Anna Waugh