We at the Gay and Lesbian Business Association (GLBA) are moved to action by what is shaping up as a witch hunt directed at the Santa Barbara City Architectural Board of Review (ABR) and the mischaracterization of the issue in the media as one of free speech.
The real issue is that privately owned Chik-fil-A uses its profits to fund organizations designated as ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center. One such effort that Chik-fil-A supports is reprehensible legislation in Uganda to impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of being gay or lesbian. Dubbed the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill, this brutal effort promoted by American right wingers recently resulted in the cold blooded murder of the highest profile GLBT advocate in Uganda and sparked horror around the world. This is orchestrated genocide and we will not stand idly by while a business owner hides behind the first amendment holding a chicken. According to Equality Matters, a project of the Watchdog group Media Matters, other groups that Chik-fil-A funds include the Family Research Council and Exodus International. The Family Research Council is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Exodus International is a group that practices ex-gay therapy, a controversial practice of “curing” gay people that mainstream mental health organizations have discredited as dangerous. We are concerned to see Santa Barbara which has on its books anti-discrimination ordinances on one hand, welcoming a business that brags of funding groups that bloody them on the other. We question the motivation for the loud clucking demanding resignations over a simple conscience abstention. The silence and tepid half hearted response to this matter appear to be homophobia to the GLBT community. We at GLBA have an abiding respect for free speech rights. In this situation, the commissioners in question did not exercise their free speech rights but rather abstained neutrally. We assert it is their legal duty to alert the Council of a business seeking to enter Santa Barbara that has announced its intention to fund a horrific gay genocide that is on its face a total repudiation of existing city laws and western values. It is why Chik-fil-A met with harsh public rebukes from the mayors of major American cities including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. It should shock the conscience of any civilized society. ABR members are appointed in part because they are representative of the SB community. Gays and lesbians are an integral part of the fabric of our community and have historically brought sensitivity and talents that are responsible for the very architecture and look of current day Santa Barbara. The principled ABR members who called attention to this situation deserve our gratitude not sanctimonious disdain. We oppose any effort to retaliate against or review the conduct of the ABR in this situation. We at GLBA are painfully familiar with the sting of homophobia. Discrimination and hate are bad for business and bad for Santa Barbara. Businesses that fund such hate tear at the fabric of our peaceful community. Worse, their hate and actions lead to and embolden those who would commit violent gay bashings. We need not look farther than the hate-based murders of Larry King and Clint Risetter. Both were murdered for being gay. Larry, 15, was shot in the head while in a classroom at school; Clint was ignited on fire while sleeping in his SB apartment. Separately, it is the reason we previously offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, capture, arrest and conviction for hate crimes of the individuals responsible for the New Years Eve gay bashings near the Wildcat Lounge in downtown SB. We as a community must act when we are the subject of repeated hate crimes. We call on our allies in SB’s social justice community to not turn a blind eye to a business that uses its profits to fund such hate and to confront how the Chik-fil-A issue masks thinly veiled homophobia.
We urge Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and members of the City Council to reject this witch hunt at the city and instead tell Chik-fil-A in no uncertain terms that brutal blood money has no place in SB.
Terry Leftgoff, John Chufar, Robert Johns, and Marco Silva are writing on behalf of the GLBA Board of Directors