Pro-LGBTQ-rights consumers vow to boycott Chick-fil-A after it announces it's opening in Toronto — here's why the fast-food chain is so controversial

Hollis Johnson
  • Chick-fil-A announced this week that the chain plans to open at least 15 locations in Toronto within the next five years. But LGBT+ rights advocates say they plan to boycott the chain. Last month, TwitterCEO Jack Dorsey also came under fire after revealing that he ate at Chick-fil-A during LGBT+ Pride Month. He later apologised.
  • The fast-food chain is controversial among LGBT+ rights advocates for its anti-same-sex marriage stance. The company has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT+ organisations.
  • In 2012, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy ignited a backlash after he said the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

It seems that Chick-fil-A is still not popular among the queer community and its allies.

When the fast-food chain announced this week that it plans to expand to Toronto, the Atlanta-based company was met with some anger by residents. On social media, some Toronto locals are vowing to boycott the chain, arguing that it has “no place in Canada” and that it should “stay out.”

In June, during LGBT+ Pride month, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also received a flurry of backlash after he tweeted that he ate Chick-fil-A. He later apologised.

Chick-fil-A has had a long, contentious relationship with the queer community, because the company has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT+ organisations.

In 2010, The Huffington Post reported that Chick-fil-A, through its WinShape Foundation, donated $US2 million to groups that oppose same-sex marriage, most notably the Marriage & Family Foundation. Until 2012, the company reportedly donated at least $US2 million more to such groups.

In 2012, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy confirmed that the company does not support same-sex marriage because it goes against the organisation’s religious values.

In an interview with the Baptist Press, Cathy said at the time:

“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. We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”

He later added on “The Ken Coleman Show:”

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

Chick-fil-A has recently tried to back away from this stance. As The Daily Beast notes, the company’s foundation ended nearly all of its donations to anti-LGBT organisations in 2012. (The foundation’s 2015 SEC filings show that it still donated nearly $US1 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.) In 2017, Chick-fil-A asked its franchisees to not make public statements about political issues.

“There are several candidates who would like to use us as a platform,” David Farmer, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of menu strategy and development, told Business Insider in 2016. “We are not engaging. Chick-fil-A is about food, and that’s it.”

This isn’t the first time a company has been embroiled in an LGBT+ rights-related controversy in recent months.

In June, the fitness giant CrossFit came under fire after an affiliated gym, CrossFit Infiltrate in Indianapolis, canceled its Pride workout due to conflicts with the location’s “values and beliefs.”

After substantial backlash online, CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman called the events “appalling” and said the whole company is “upset.” CrossFit then closed the Indianapolis affiliate location.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a large number of big brands have come out this year in support of LGBT+ rights and benefits. AT&T gave $US1 million to The Trevor Project, a LGBT+ crisis-intervention nonprofit, the largest single donation in the organisation’s history during Pride month. Estée Lauder also announced an expanded benefits package for parents that includes 20 weeks of paid leave, $US10,000 toward adoption, and a back-to-work transition program – regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

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