Chick-fil-A gay rights boycott backfires

Taking a page from Terry Rakolta's book on how to use righteous indignation to suppress the freedoms of others, some gay activists and their supporters decided to teach the Chick-fil-A people a lesson.

Chick-fil-A became a target for a boycott organized by somebody — it's not exactly clear who — because the fast-food chain's president, Dan Cathy, had the audacity to express his personal views about marriage, which did not comport with those of certain gay activists.

Cathy had divulged that he supports "the biblical definition of the family unit."

That outraged some politicians, including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who suggested the restaurant chain had better get out of his town.

Pretty soon, organizations like the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called for a Chick-fil-A boycott, reminiscent of Rakolta's holy crusade in the 1980s to launch a boycott of advertisers on the risqué television show, "Married With Children."

The Bible-thumping Michigan housewife soon became known as "The Ayatollah Rakolta," and her crusade spectacularly backfired. "Married," which had been going nowhere with meager ratings, became one of the most successful shows on TV.

(My favorite character was dimwitted bimbo daughter Kelly Bundy. Sample dialogue: "So, that island you own, is it near the beach?" And when the family members each had only one M&M to eat for dinner, she noted that she got a "W&W" instead.)

In response to the GLAAD et al boycott against Chick-fil-A, two Bible-thumping politicians — former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also are former presidential candidates — called for sort of a boycott of the boycott, highlighted by "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on Wednesday.

Not long ago, Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, expressed his "wish" that "all Americans would be forced at gunpoint to listen to every David Barton message." Barton is a Texas evangelist who is fighting to end the separation of church and state. Also, I've had plenty say previously about Santorum's position that America should be a "Judeo-Christian" theocracy.

In any case, Wednesday's Huckabee-Santorum event was as successful as Rakolta's crusade was nonefficacious. Hordes of people, presumably all hostile to same-sex marriage, etc., responded by flocking to Chick-fil-A restaurants all over the nation. Sometimes, there were lines of people all the way around a block and record sales for the chain were reported.

GLAAD came back with a call for "National Same-Sex Kiss Day," in which homosexual couples were asked to go to a Chick-fil-A on Friday and kiss each other as much and as annoyingly as possible.

The back-and-forth displays were getting a little tedious, so I skipped Friday's kiss-in, but I did go to the Chick-fil-A restaurant near Trexlertown on Thursday.

I had been there only once before, last year, and that was only because my wife (she's a woman, by the way) and I planned to go to the nearby Texas Roadhouse restaurant, but it was closed that day because of some sort of problem. (Despite my usual revulsion for anything with the word "Texas" in it, we like that restaurant.)

I don't remember what I had, but my wife did not care for what she got at Chick-fil-A, so we never went back. Thanks to Santorum and Huckabee, however, I decided to give it another try, by myself.

I ordered a "Chick-fil-A Chicken Delux" meal and a special treat — a strawberry milkshake with a cherry on top. It came to $7.93 and was pretty good, except that the French fries looked like little waffles. The only problem was an ice cream headache because I drank the milkshake too fast.

I was most impressed, however, with the way the place is run. All the people working there were very polite, articulate and friendly, and they acted as though they had made it past the third grade, at least, in glaring contrast to the employees of some other fast-food joints. I had the feeling they all were the kind of young people you'd be happy to have your children date. Not a visible tattoo in the bunch, and their outfits — black tops and tan pants — were spotless.

There were no homophobic signs on the walls, but there was a quote from S. Truett Cathy, the founder of the chain. "Food is essential to life; therefore, make it good," it said. That's as doctrinaire as things got.

It was the cleanest fast-food restaurant I ever saw. A guy in black and tan wiped my table before I sat down and there was a vase with flowers on it. The men's room was crud-free, and even the parking lot did not have a speck of litter.

It seems to me that the only thing GLAAD and the other boycott backers accomplished was to call attention to the positive attributes of a chain that many people may have ignored before. It's "Married With Children" all over again.

It seems to me that if you have an agenda, you'll be better off espousing what you believe and challenging, as individuals, those with opposing views — instead of trying to punish them by ruining their business or forcing them out of their jobs because they exercise free speech.

I happen to support the basic goals of organizations like GLAAD, but I am forced to admit that they have as many imbeciles in their midst as anyone else.

paul.carpenter@mcall.com 610-820-6176

Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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