KFC's Double Down (a bacon and cheese sandwich with two pieces of fried chicken in lieu of bread) is no longer the most controversial thing in the high-stakes world of fast food chicken.
That honor now belongs to Atlanta-based fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A, whose conservative Christian president, Dan Cathy, recently came out publicly articulating his opposition to gay marriage.
"It could be that they've determined that they already have this identity, so let's just own it," Lake Lambert, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Mercer University and author of Spirituality Inc.: Religion in the American Workplace explained to the Washington Post. "But I think it could present challenges to them as they expand outside of the South."
Lambert's prediction has already come true in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View, where LGBT activists have successfully blocked a Chick-fil-A from coming into town, at least temporarily.
Turned off by the company's anti-gay reputation, area resident David Speakman posted an online petition on fundraising site WePay looking to gather the $1,000 necessary to lodge a zoning challenge to stop the franchise from moving in.
Speakman's request raised more than enough money to pay for the challenge in well under 24 hours.
Mountain View's zoning administrator approved the Chick-fil-A's plans of converting a 0.74-acre lot on El Camino Real that currently houses a Sizzler last Wednesday.
The WePay page notes that Cathy, who inherited the top spot at Chick-fil-A from his father, is entitled to his First Amendment rights and attempts to block the restaurant based solely on the opinions of its chief executive are probably doomed to fail.
Fighting over land-use issues, however, is much more likely to succeed.
"It could be Mother Teresa that owns it, and it would be a bad place," Speakman told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But because it was a bunch of bigots, it gave us an extra nudge."
In 2008, Speakman and his husband Richard were the first gay couple in Santa Clara County to be legally married.
"We're pro-business and pro-growth, but businesses that move here have to reflect our community," Speakman added to the Palo Alto Daily News. "If they're going to be offensive to our friends and family who happen to by gay or lesbian, we're going to look at them a little bit harder and make sure they follow the rules."
Chick-fil-A has long had a reputation as a deeply Christian company, even going as far as closing every one of its locations on Sundays so employees can go to church. This commitment to faith drew Cathy into the headlines last week when he give an interview to the Baptist Press unabashedly wading into the gay marriage debate:
Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.
"We are very much supportive of the family--the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
Days after the interview sparked a national media firestorm, the company issued a statement to its customers saying, "going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena...[we] treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
A recent report released by the LGBT advocacy group Equality Matters found that the WinShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A's charitable arm, has given millions of dollars to groups supporting anti-gay positions.
Mountain View isn't the only place where Cathy's anti-gay marriage stance has gotten his company into trouble.
In the wake of the Baptist Press interview, the Jim Henson Company, which had partnered with Chick-fil-A to distribute a line of toys based on its iconic Creature Shop designs, severed ties with the chain and is donating the proceeds from the relationship to the Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Similarly, the company may have difficulty expanding into Boston. In an interview with the Boston Herald last week, mayor Thomas Menino vowed to block any attempts Chick-fil-A would make to set up shop in the city. "Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston," said Meninio. "You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion."
Back in Mountain View, the proposed Chick-fil-A has to wait until September, when the city council reconvenes after its summer recess, before the approval process can start back up again.
Love Chik-fil-A's fried chicken but can't stomach the company's politics? Check out this video giving step-by-step instructions on how to make your very own LGBT-friendly Chick-fil-Gay sandwich:
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