Corey Braun, owner of a Chick-fil-A in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., surprised nearly everyone this week when he handed out dozens of coupons for free meals to marriage equality supporters at a nearby demonstration, going against the company’s history of opposing same-sex marriage.
Though the gesture is commendable and deserves recognition, don’t be too quick to assume that this is a representation of Chick-fil-A as a whole. It’s not. In fact, despite the company’s claims last year that they were going to step back and “leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” just by looking at where the company has donated funds in recent times, it’s clear that they’re doing nothing of the sort. Rather, instead of actually stepping out of the debate, they’ve immersed themselves further into the discussion by increasing donations to anti-gay groups such as Marriage & Family Foundation, the National Christian Foundation and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Braun, however, holds that the corporate heads’ (namely Dan Cathy) statement’s on same-sex marriage do not transfer over into the company’s policy regarding its service to customers.
"There were a lot of things said over the past year," Braun said. "I wanted to show that Chick-fil-A doesn't discriminate against anybody. We serve everyone. We're happy to serve the community and this was an opportunity to have this group come in and show them our hospitality regardless of their beliefs, sexual orientation, or whatever … Chick-fil-A has never been about hate.”
And it seemed that Braun’s sincerity over the matter had spoken to the activists participating in the Rancho Cucamonga demonstration.
Calling Braun’s appearance surreal, Eden Anderson, a board member of the local LGBT rights group, Equality Inland Empire, said, "The crowd was very accepting, of course … What I experienced with the community, is when people are open and apologetic and accepting, it's touching to us. It feels like acceptance and we just want to be accepted and engaged in society, so when it's confirmed, I think the overall reaction was, yes, certainly that Chick-fil-A in Rancho Cucamonga is welcoming to us.”
However, Anderson hasn’t forgotten the Cathy’s statements, nor has he forgotten how many people flocked to the very same Chick-fil-A last year on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in support of the restaurant after many others had boycotted it.
"A lot of them aren't just against marriage equality," Anderson said. "They believe gay people are a sin against nature and God and it felt like a display of disregard for our humanity.”
And Anderson is right to not forget. Braun, unfortunately, is not a representation of Chick-fil-A’s stance as a whole — and he certainly is not a representation of Cathy’s stance. Despite this particular location’s acceptance of everyone regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs, you’re still voting with your money each time you buy a sandwich from Chick-fil-A, and at the end of the day, some of that money will undoubtedly find its way to an anti-gay group.