It’s Not Only About Gay Marriage

The last few days have seen a cloud of controversy over Santa Barbara-bound Chick-fil-A. Although the fast food chain has been slated to move in at an upper State Street address since fall 2011, national media coverage of the company president’s antigay remarks last month (and resulting protests of the restaurants) transformed a routine franchise opening into front-page news. Currently the debate is over Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy, his freedom of speech. However, his ability to make comments in the news is not being questioned. In fact, before you purchase a chicken sandwich from this incoming franchise, it is important to know what your dollars support.

Company president Dan Cathy received a lot of press recently for his remarks on gay marriage. But his stance on the treatment of gays and lesbians goes much further than their freedom to marry. Chick-fil-A’s foundation, WinShape, has donated an estimated $5 million to antigay organizations and certified hate groups. In 2010 alone, Chick-fil-A donated nearly $2 million to antigay organizations including Exodus International, an agency that promotes damaging gay-conversion (to straight) efforts and has supported campaigns like Uganda’s legislative proposal to execute gay citizens.

David Selberg, executive director of Pacific Pride Foundation, affirms that “welcoming Chick-fil-A, or businesses like it, into our Santa Barbara community does not make our town safer or healthier. Chick-fil-A, led by president Dan Cathy, brings a track record of hate to our bright town and we at the LGBT center don’t take that lightly.”

The Santa Barbara Equality Project at Pacific Pride Foundation stands firmly opposed to businesses that promote and/or support hate groups. While Dan Cathy’s personal opinions are his to be had, it is also the right of his customers to know where their dollars are headed. Most franchises pay an average of 8 to 10 percent to their corporate umbrella. But not Chick-fil-A. With this company, 15 percent of a franchise restaurant’s sales and 50 percent of its pretax profit goes back to its corporate offices in Georgia. So before you spend $6.15 on a Cool Wrap Combo meal at the new State Street location, know that most of that money will leave Santa Barbara and go straight to corporate—and to Cathy’s extreme agenda.

Chick-fil-A comes to Santa Barbara amid a national uproar over corporate dollars supporting hate. At a recent City of Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review meeting, three individuals exercised their right to abstain from a vote on the local plans. They took a momentary pause in the midst of an unusually chaotic storm of public concern over the franchise. And as is stands, the reviews nevertheless moved forward and the chain will open as planned.

As Chick-fil-A makes its way to our town, the Santa Barbara Equality Project and our coalition partners encourage the public to combat president Dan Cathy’s hate practices with something he understands most: money. Simply put, don’t choose to eat at Chick-fil-A. Exercise your freedom of expression by encouraging your friends and neighbors to spend their dollars at a different restaurant. Show corporations like Chick-fil-A that our town does not support hate and let’s see that State Street location close quickly.

The authorship of this story was originally attributed to Daraka Larimore-Hall. However, it was authored by the Santa Barbara Equality Project at Pacific Pride Foundation. It was cosigned by Larimore-Hall as Chair of the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County; it was cosigned as well as by The Fund for Santa Barbara, PUEBLO, Just Communities, and Pacific Pride Foundation. The byline was changed on August 21 to reflect this collaboration.

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