To the staffers at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte’s Auxilliary Services:
I noticed with great surprise today your social media-esque text-over-photo meme in an announcement of Spring Break hours:
Perhaps it was just an unknowing mistake. I’m willing to give you the great benefit of doubt.
Perhaps you did not know that Chick-fil-A has been embroiled in controversy for years for its corporate support of non-profit groups that fund anti-LGBT organizations.
Perhaps you didn’t know that among those groups are organizations like the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has named an anti-LGBT hate group. Or, other groups like Exodus International, which, before closing last year, pushed the utterly un-scientific, harmful and dangerous “ex-gay” message that LGBT people could be “cured” through prayer and divine healing.
Perhaps you didn’t know that Chick-fil-A’s COO, Dan Cathy, tweeted (and then deleted) a message in response to June’s historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a portion of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, that called the landmark move toward equality a “sad day for our nation.”
Maybe you are exuberantly looking forward to the day when Chick-fil-A will cease funding some of the more extremist political and social groups that have regularly received money from them. Or, perhaps, like Shane Windmeyer, your former staffer and current executive director of the national group Campus Pride, you are hoping that personal relationships and friendships, even across lines of difference, can help move the needle by changing hearts and minds (a strategy, by the way, that I fully support).
But, even if all that is true, what is also still true, as so eloquently pointed out by The Advocate‘s Lucas Grindley, is that Chick-fil-A has yet to fully cease its anti-LGBT funding — still giving to groups that oppose marriage equality, though they’ve stopped giving to the more stridently bigoted groups like Family Research Council.
I’m not a UNCC staffer. I’m just an (extremely) part-time student. But, if I were a staffer, I’d have been greatly displeased that you decided to speak on my behalf and lump me in with all staff people who allegedly “love” the short lines at Chick-fil-A. I haven’t eaten at Chick-fil-A in years, and won’t ever again. I won’t because I don’t want my money going to a company that will turn around and then give it to organizations who are fighting tooth and nail against my very existence and my civil and human rights. If I wanted to donate money to organizations that hate my very being, I’d write a check myself. Instead, I think I’ll support companies like Salsarita’s, which you also named and which spends its company’s time, resources and finances supporting homeless families instead of denigrating LGBT ones.
So, simply put, no, I don’t think all UNCC staff persons love the short lines at Chick-fil-A. Indeed, I’m pretty damn certain there are many of them who skip those lines entirely.
Perhaps — just perhaps — it might be wise of UNCC to do two things: (1) pause and ask itself why it is doing business with a company that has actively funded groups that discriminate against a portion of the community you serve — a community of people whom you have committed to protect via non-discrimination policies and other inclusion practices, and (2) even if it did decide to continue doing business with such a company, why it would highlight it in such a positive manner, knowing that a portion of your students, staff, faculty and others associated with the campus are the direct target of that business’ anti-LGBT funding.
Perhaps, all of this just seems trivial to you. “Oh, those gays and their pesky boycotts,” you might say. But, it’s not trivial. It’s my life, my rights and my human dignity. And, you’ve chosen not only to do business with a company that doesn’t give a shit about me, but also chosen to speak on behalf of some of those very same people just like me who will never look at Chick-fil-A and be able to feel anything but exclusion and distrust.
UNC-Charlotte, you can and should do better.
P.S. (March 3, 2014, 9:24 p.m.) — No, news tonight of Chick-fil-A’s decrease in anti-LGBT funding doesn’t change my mind. The company still has no LGBT-inclusive policies and some of its funding is still problematic. Progress? Yes. But, it isn’t complete inclusion.