By: United Democrats of Southern Solano County
Bayard Rustin LGBT Democratic Club of Napa and Solano Counties
In Napa, the 4th of July Parade became the subject of controversy when the person selected for parade grand marshal made inflammatory, anti-gay statements. An inclusive and uniting resolution was brought about. Heartfelt apologies were offered by Meritage Resort and Spa, and the Napa Rotary Club, and were gratefully accepted. Important understandings were reached about the pain and division this process caused and the issue has been declared a victory as a new process will be used for next year’s selection.
Compare this with our own Vallejo issue regarding a business making inflammatory, anti-gay statements, discriminating, and asking to do business here. in 2013, Dan Cathy, the president and COO of Chick-Fil-A, called the U.S. Supreme Court decision which gave marriage equality to Californians, and overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, a “sad day for our nation.” and said that our “founding fathers would be ashamed of our generation” for merely declaring that all people deserve the right of marriage to the person they love. Cathy broke the promise he had made earlier when he said that he would stop issuing such anti-gay statements. That promise came after Cathy had condemned same-sex supporters as being of “deprived minds” and said they were “prideful and arrogant” and were “inviting God’s judgment” on the nation. He stated in no uncertain terms that he believes gay people are inviting the complete destruction of society and culture by pursuing marriage equality.
Cathy also promised he would stop using the profits from Chick-FIl-A to fund groups such as the SPLC-identified anti-gay hate group Focus On The Family, the American Family Association, and others. Not only did Cathy break that promise too, he doubled down the very next year, giving another $4 million to anti-gay causes. After the ensuing controversy, Chick-Fil-A released a statement saying that the corporate foundation would “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” and not support anti-LGBT causes.
When a local group of Vallejo representatives directly asked spokespersons from Chick-Fil-A to explain the doubling of funds, they backpedalled and claimed that this was due to a “lag” in the accounting process for the donations. How could that be if they had already stopped funding anti-gay groups, as they claim, before the news broke? Chick-Fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy denies that Chick-Fil-A’s history of donations to anti-gay groups proves the company is “anti-gay.” Cathy argues that Chick-Fil-A has “no agenda against anyone,” and that the company will not “champion any political agendas” relating to marriages or families but would nonetheless “continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families.” It’s very convenient for them to say now that have no any political agenda, after giving millions to further their anti-gay causes.
But what they don’t say, is that their corporate foundation still conducts marriage counseling at their private conference center in Georgia, where gay couples are still unwelcome and prohibited from participating. These counseling programs are funded though Chick-Fil-A, run by members of the Cathy family, and cosponsored by hate group Focus on the Family’s National Institute for Marriage which says they will work against same-sex marriage and against hate crime legislation. They also promise to support reparative therapy, the same therapy that was outlawed in California for minors due to its contribution toward depression and suicides. Chick-Fil-A has donated millions of dollars to fund reparative therapy through Exodus International, the discredited organization which is now defunct after the founder admitted that the therapy has never been successful in changing gay persons into heterosexuals. It’s also unclear if they have really stopped funding these organizations, or merely found other means to hide the donations, as they did before.
Representatives of the community in Vallejo offered Chick-Fil-A an opportunity to give our community a new promise, one stating that they will practice non-discrimination when it comes to all customers and employees, including those who are in same-sex marriages, as required by our California Constitution. Chick-Fil-A declined. Why would they not want to make a statement which merely says “We at Chick-Fil-A proudly stand in support of all married couples in California in committed, loving relationships, who participate in the civic lives of their communities?” After all, they claim not to be anti-gay and say they only want to “strengthen marriages and families.” It’s the law in California, and the right thing to do.
It’s clear that they don’t really believe equality applies to the couples and their children in legally-recognized same-sex marriages. They also refuse to apologize for anything they have said, or done and when asked about their anti-gay views, Cathy will only say he is “guilty as charged.”
We just can’t trust Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A when they claim they are not anti-gay. On July 22, Chick-FIl-A will ask our city council to grant them special accommodations to make changes to our general plan, putting in drive-thrus where they are prohibited, and creating dangerous traffic patterns in congested areas. They seem to want Vallejo to accommodate them, but are unwilling to accommodate us. They want special permission to run a business in our town, so they can send the majority of the profits back to their headquarters in Georgia, where there are no laws protecting same-sex couples, or LGBT employees, or citizens, and where they can dictate how they spend those profits, even giving it to hate groups. Even if a local operator runs the local store, that operator is chosen and vetted through Chick-Fil-A, required to take training in Georgia at their headquarters, and the rents and profits generated travel back to Georgia to fund their anti-gay agenda. Until Dan Cathy can show even a modest understanding of the pain and suffering he has caused, and the lives his callous and indifferent actions has negatively impacted, our City Council should not give a business which is so divisive and non-inclusive a free pass to discriminate.