Today was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. This was not a day to appreciate their chicken sandwiches and sweet tea (which as a good Southern girl I admittedly find pretty tasty). No, this was a day to show your support for Chick-fil-A and its CEO, Dan Cathy, whose statements that his company was “based on biblical principles” and supported “the biblical definition of the family unit” came under fire by gay rights groups.
I want to be clear, I support Mr. Cathy’s right to free speech, and his right to live his beliefs. I will firmly defend this right to any and all. I also want to be clear that I can vehemently support this right and still find his statements objectionable. I can support this right and choose to take my money elsewhere. I don’t want to talk about free speech. We are lucky to live in a country where it exists, Mr. Cathy exercised that right, as did the folks calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A. As far as I am concerned there is nothing more to be said about that.
What I want to talk about is what the actions of those people who went to Chick-fil-A today said to those around them, especially the folks who are not in (or do not aspire to be in) “the biblical definition of the family unit”. I want to talk about how those actions hurt me, how they made me feel sad. Now, I don’t believe that your right to free speech has to bow to my feelings. But I do want to say, clearly, unequivocally, that your actions, as the friend or family member of someone gay, as the member of a community in which queer people live, hurt someone today. At best, you gave them a twinge, a fleeting moment of discomfort. More likely for many people, you made their heart hurt, you made them feel unwelcome or even unsafe in their community.
I have a troubled relationship with Christianity. But I try to live a moral, ethical, and compassionate life. I try to treat people with respect and kindness. I fail. I fail all the time – just as many Christians will tell you they fail in their attempts to live a Christ-like life. But my goal is to never hurt my fellow inhabitants of this planet, to never cause other people pain. Especially knowingly.
If you went to Chick-fil-A today, if you posted or tweeted or stood in line for hours to buy a chicken sandwich, you hurt someone today. You chose a corporation over a living, breathing human being. You had a right to do so. I will defend it. But you caused someone (a family member, a coworker, a friend, a neighbor, a depressed queer teenager driving by the local Chik-fil-A) pain.
This “Appreciation Day” was organized by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and by his words was to: “affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A”. To repeat, this Appreciation Day was not to support a right to free speech (which was never in doubt), but instead to take a stand for Godly values, for the biblical family unit, for families that don’t look like mine, that aren’t made up of two women who love each other, who are married to each other, who parent a baby girl they adore.
That’s the message you were sending today if you went to Chick-fil-A. You were sending the message that my family, that many, many people’s families were not valid, were not worthy of respect and consideration, were not worth more than the cost of a chicken sandwich. You hurt someone today. You can say what you want, buy what you want, but you have to own the consequences of your actions. Next time, when you face an action like this, I hope you think about this. I hope you think about whether or not you feel more strongly about this action than you do about treating your fellow human beings, whatever family form they find themselves in, with dignity and respect. And next time, I hope more people choose dignity and respect.