Discussion of the much-overdone Chick-Fil-A controversy has shifted from the First Amendment rights of corporate President Dan Cathy to the stupidity of LGBT civil rights movement in picking a fight we couldn’t win. Even a sympathetic correspondent from New York magazine thinks we blew it by having small groups of activists exchange kisses at Chick-Fil-A locations around the country: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/08/chick-fil-a-counter-protest-was-sort-of-a-bust.html
But engaging the controversy–kicked off by Dan Cathy’s inflammatory opposition to marriage equality and the reactions of several big-city mayors–has been the only opportunity LGBT advocates have had to speak for ourselves in this context. Otherwise the ongoing debate about our lives, liberties, and pursuit of happiness would have happened without us, and we’d just be caricatured.
One of the most frustrating aspects of being a gay activist today is being told that our movement has prevailed or will prevail inevitably so we should just chill and wait things out when something like the Chick-Fil-A brouhaha happens. That was the thrust of Jon Stewart’s otherwise positive segment on Thursday. Meanwhile, gay kids still get bullied and driven to suicide, even with the Promised Land in full view. Their tormentors more clearly perceive the reality of hatred in 21st century America than do many of our friends.
The simple fact is that homophobia remains prevalent enough to inspire bullies and bashers even in liberal Massachusetts. Why–because hate groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association get a media platform the KKK could never aspire to, and have millions of dollars to propagate their muck due to the largesse of corporations like Chick-Fil-A. Can we stop them from being heard? We wouldn’t even try: unpopular minorities would be wrong to take on the First Amendment when that’s the only mechanism that would allow us to hold Pride Parades in most of the South. But we will continue to shine a light on the connections between American fundamentalists and the Uganda “kill-the-gays” bill, attracting media attention as best we know how. It’s a given that homophobes get their say, in school hallways and dark alleys throughout the country. We have an uphill climb with allies like Jon Stewart telling us the fight is over and we’ve already won.
This point is best articulated by this article at the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/guy-branum/chick-fil-a-boycott_b_1731169.html?ref=topbar Perhaps my feelings are too personally engaged, since I was one of those bullied gay kids growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1970′s who is lucky to be alive today. Our movement will make mistakes, to be sure, and can count on being called on every one of them. But silence equals death and we’ve had too much of both of those.