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Will the Chick-fil-A ‘kiss-ins’ help or hurt?

An interesting question that I thought I’d toss out here for discussion. It was raised in the LA Times.

Nationwide, at least 15,000 people have agreed to participate in the kiss-in, [New York-based political activist Carly] McGehee said. But even among LGBT supporters, some wonder whether such an in-your-face act might be too provocative, or amount to taunting.

“I respect not patronizing their establishment … but by taunting them in their establishment is hate-filled and inciting anger and hate,” said one commenter on a page urging people to participate in the kiss-in.

Suggested another: “Its okay to disagree but its not okay to confront a person on their views in such an aggressive and provocative manner. There are forums for that.”

IMHO, I’m not keen on this as an effective protest tool — it’s not about our right to love (ostensibly why gay couples will be there kissing), it’s about Chick-fil-As record of anti-gay discrimination and funding of groups that want us DEAD, endorse “ex-gay” therapy, and to deny LGBTs basic civil rights. The kiss-in seems more like a stunt for shock value that the fundies will try capitalize on by tying the action to sex acts that they abhor. The “ick” factor has been one of the major issues these folks cling to, like it or not.

The bottom line is that the record-breaking sales for Chick-fil-A shows just how much homophobia still exists out there, LGBT equality gains have come through the courts, some legislative efforts, but largely has not been driven by social acceptance of our lives and desire to extend civil rights. That’s the hard truth in all equality movements. We have not seen racism or sexism disappear; in fact we’ve seen bold open displays of both in the last few years that reminds us that laws on the books doesn’t mean bias goes away. It merely goes underground and erupts occasionally — and grotesquely — when the status quo is rocked too much in places that have to be dragged kicking and screaming into social change.

UPDATE: I rest my case, the fundie freaks only read the protest as “sex”. I expect more comments like this. Barber is an epic extreme homophobe, but the sentiment is shared by many.

I’m not saying that direct actions are useless; I just don’t think this particular one focuses on the vile business practices that are counter to equality under the law — and they are draped in religious bigotry that is funded by Chick-fil-A. It allows the framing of the issue to remain in the court of the fundamentalists. Gay=sex. Sex=icky. Remember, Chick-fil-A doesn’t mind firing adulterers, or non-Christians (the latter cost them a pretty penny for firing a Muslim that didn’t want to pray to Jesus at a corporate event). The world view is extremely narrow and discriminatory.


UPDATE: A commenter said this on the blog:

“You all might want to google “Queer Nation” and “ACT-UP” … not to mention something called “Stonewall”.

This is laughable and insulting to the direct action of those groups. If they want to make a comparison of commitment, then these protesters should block access to CFAs and get press for being arrested for civil disobedience. In the end I’ll be happy to say I was wrong about it if it turns out to effect positive change, I just think the kiss-ins are a missed organizing opportunity to take control of the frame, not play into the fundie frame.

Also, someone on my Facebook wall noted that the kiss-in’s purpose is to show “we’re here and queer”. My response:

I think every person standing in that line knows “we exist” — they either just don’t want us to exist, or prefer us not to have civil rights they hold dear to. That’s why the kiss-in doesn’t strike the most effective note (and underscore it’s only my opinion, feel free to disagree) and since it is being done all over the country, it’s a missed opportunity to get in front of the media to force the issue of CFA’s discriminatory policies instead of the kissing to say “look we’re here and queer.” I think we’re past that bit of education with as much LGBT rights news has permeated society. What we’re up against is the losing side trying to grasp firm to their bigotry by hiding behind the phony free speech argument. Unfortunately some in the LGBT community fell for that trap, with mayors coming out trying to ban CFAs and other ludicrous nonsense. The goal is to get the media frame on our side by reporting on CFA’s anti-gay/anti-woman/anti-anything-but-fundie practices. They have a corporate Jim Crow world view that is even more insidious – they welcome LGBT dollars to buy those sandwiches and waffle fries, and will still discriminate against LGBTs by supporting anti-gay orgs.


Sadly the mainstream media have either been too stupid or are purposely reporting this story as a controversy about marriage equality rather than the bible-based bigotry funded by Chick-Fil-A. I’m not confident that the kiss-ins will be reported in a context that is favorable to the LGBT community. The media is lazy, and since these events are “organic” there will be enthusiastic participants without media training iwho get on camera who may give out quotes that will fuel fundie fires. And as far as the involvement of LGBT orgs goes, it’s their call, they will accept the laurels if it goes weill, and will have to clean up the PR mess if it goes badly. They didn’t organize or have control over this day’s actions.

And lastly, one cannot compare today’s demonstration to the act of Rosa Parks or a lunch counter sit-in, something I’m seeing cited repeatedly on social media. In those cases the acts were well-planned and organized by social justice organizations and those participating fully expected to be arrested. None of the kiss-in participants are putting that level of sacrifice on the line. It’s a display of PDA for cameras and the patrons of CFA.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding