word broke that the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A was co-sponsoring an event on "biblical marriage" with an anti-gay group in Pennsylvania known as the Pennsylvania Family Institute. The story broke when LGBT blog Good As You captured some screen shots of promotional materials for the event, which very clearly stated "Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Family Institute & Chick-fil-A."
In the ensuing 48 hours, over 17,000 people have emailed Chick-fil-A demanding that they pull their sponsorship from the event, and come clean over whether they support anti-gay organizations like the Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI). It's important to know, given that the PFI has a lengthy track record of anti-gay activism. They've called for a constitutional amendment in Pennsylvania banning same-sex couples from getting married, and they're considered a statewide affiliate of Focus on the Family, the national religious organization that believes in curing gay people through "conversion therapy," and the organization that once said gay marriage would be a bigger disaster than Pearl Harbor.
The controversy prompted Chick-fil-A to tweet this: "For those seeing reports of a Chick-fil-A sponsorship w/ the Penn Family Inst, we are looking into the issue and will provide a response ASAP." That was now two days ago, and nary a word has come from the restaurant chain since.
What has happened, however, is that the PFI has scrubbed Chick-fil-A's name off of the promotional materials for their "biblical marriage" event. Now all it says is that Chick-fil-A will be providing food for the conference.
But donating a lot of food to a conference sounds like a hefty donation in favor of PFI's work, right?
The head of PFI, Michael Geer, sounded off on gay bloggers in an article on the Christian Post this morning, saying that LGBT activists are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. "All in all it's a trumped up story," Geer said, adding that "People should applaud institutions that want to strengthen marriage."
Geer did verify that several Chick-fil-A franchises are supporting PFI's marriage event with a donation of food. "There are a couple restaurants that are giving us food," Geer confirmed.
The story is somewhat reminiscent of a decision by a Tim Horton's franchise nearly two years ago to sponsor an event hosted by the National Organization for Marriage, the newly-minted hate group that solely focuses on taking civil rights away from LGBT Americans. Tim Horton's corporate office was hammered with complaints that the company's name could be attached to such an anti-gay organization, and the corporate office took strides to make sure that franchises weren't supporting discrimination against LGBT people with their sponsorships.
So far, Chick-fil-A has remained silent, not commenting on what role any of its franchises are playing with PFI's event. This despite a promise from the company to address the situation via Twitter.
Interestingly enough, it looks like Chick-fil-A restaurants are also set to provide lunch at a conference this coming Wednesday put on by the Great Plains Alliance of Christian Schools, which is hosting an event with representatives from the Focus on the Family Institute, a program run by Focus on the Family directed at young adults and college students.
Chick-fil-A's silence is eerie. While their name has been scrubbed from promotional materials, it's clear that the restaurant chain has at least some ties to PFI's event (the food donation alone has to be pretty substantial), as well as several other events hosted by anti-gay organizations. Doesn't Chick-fil-A owe it to its customers, especially those who are LGBT and straight allies of gay rights, to clearly state whether the restaurant and/or its franchises can support organizations that discriminate against LGBT people?
petition text -
Dear Mr. Robinson and Ms. Green,-end-
I recently became aware that Chick-fil-A is sponsoring a February 2011 event with the Pennsylvania Family Institute on "the biblical definition of marriage." The Pennsylvania Family Institute has a lengthy track record of rhetoric that is very offensive to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, and in recent years has made fighting same-sex marriage a cornerstone of their work. Why would Chick-fil-A decide to partner with an organization promoting such values?
Indeed, the Pennsylvania Family Institute has called gay marriage a threat to civilization, suggested that same-sex couples harm children, and believes that same-sex marriage should be banned not only in Pennsylvania, but also in the U.S. Constitution. Does Chick-fil-A agree with this? And if not, why would the company choose to cosponsor an event with the Pennsylvania Family Institute on the subject of marriage?
I am very concerned about Chick-fil-A's sponsorship of this event, and will be telling friends and family about the role of the company in promoting the Pennsylvania Family Institute's anti-gay message. I urge you to pull your sponsorship from this event, and not join forces with an organization with such a lengthy track record against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans
Thank you for your time.
[Your name here]