The Politics of the Chicken Sandwich

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Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Up until last week, Chik-fil-A restaurants were only known for chicken sandwiches, waffle fries and being closed on Sundays.

But thanks to comments from its President, Dan Cathy, now Chik-fil-A is finding itself as the battleground for America’s culture war over gay marriage.

But beyond the developments of the Great Chicken Controversy, I think how this is being played out is a significant turning point in the gay civil rights movement.

If you haven’t heard about the Chik-fil-A controversy and boycott, the important details are this. Chik-fil-A President Dan Cathy made public comments supporting the biblical definition of marriage. In response, gay rights advocates called for a boycott of Chik-fil-A restaurants and have staged various protests in front of establishments around the country.

However, there are few things that make this controversy a bit different.

One, a counter boycott received as much if not more attention as supporters of the Cathy’s stance came out to support the business. While true numbers won’t play out for some time, in the short term, the boycott seems to have backfired in at least most states. The company saw one of its most busy days of operation during the boycott, if that tells you anything.

But what makes this boycott a turning point for the gay rights movement is that this wasn’t inspired by a discrimination claim or a policy that turned gay people away from a particular service. All of this is based merely on the comments of one company president about gay marriage.

If comments from a conservative president of a Christian based company were all it took to get a boycott 10-15 years ago, gay rights advocates would be exhausted after all of the protests they would need to attend. Times have indeed changed for the movement.

But this also shows an aggressive evolution for gay marriage advocates who are going beyond looking for state government officials that oppose gay marriage, but are now more than happy to go after a president of a company to bring attention to this issue.

I have nothing against this strategy, but the strategy is aggressive and could trigger a culture war of words with other CEO’s of other Christian based companies. That might be something that gay rights advocates do not have a problem with and they may see Dan Cathy as the aggressor since he made his comments first.

However, after making significant strides in public opinion on the gay marriage and civil union issue, encouraging the public to actually cast a vote on the issue with their pocketbook may change some of that momentum.

Frankly, most people in national polls have come to the point to not have a problem with gay marriage or at least civil unions. However, I’m not sure if those same people are prepared to give up their favorite Chicken sandwich or any other future company’s product for the idea.

Overall, it’s a good thing that any civil rights movement can evolve to be more aggressive. It means that progress is being made. However, the Chik-fil-A controversy may show that with any movement’s progress, momentary setbacks can occur. Like anything else, those can be overcome. But who in the world thought that the latest challenge would come from a chicken sandwich.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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