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Michelangelo Signorile on the Chick-Fil-A dustup – Where Do We Go From Here?

Over at HuffPo Gay Voices, Michelangelo Signorile does his post-mortem on the Chick-Fil-A battle, which didn’t exactlygo well for the pro-equality side, primarily because the pro-bigotry forces were aided by some self-inflicted wounds on our side that handed over the free-speech victim argument.

And these people are hypocrites who cared nothing about the first amendment when they went on a religious crusade against Muslims, trying to stop construction of the Islamic center near ground zero back in 2010. Now, while they crusade against gays, with millions of dollars from Chick-fil-A’s profits going to groups that promote harmful pray-away-the-gay therapies, they’re crying about the first amendment? Please.

So yes, our enemies distorted our message and reframed the story. And we allowed them to do it.

How did we allow it to happen? Because there was no coordinated effort on our side. The controversy was largely driven by blogs, social media and very loosely organized grass-roots activists, with no coordinated leadership. The city mayors and politicians calling for banning Chick-fil-A gave an opportunity for the right to reframe the story. The mayors backed off quickly after many on the left decided it wasn’t a good idea.

…The problem with the kiss-in was, again, a lack of leadership.The turnout was sparse. It didn’t have a focus, and by default it seemed to be responding to Huckabee’s re-framing of the controversy as about same-sex marriage — couples showing their love and wanting their rights. Once you grab people’s attention the messaging needs to be about the issue you want focused on: Chick-fil-A giving money to those anti-gay groups, which have fostered the very hate that has resulted in violence and murder. It surely wasn’t.

But there was one curious thing in Mike’s piece — why did HRC keep its new president, Chad Griffin, away from LGBT media during this serious opportunity and challenge to take on Chick-Fil-A’s bogus First Amendment fig leaf?

At the largest LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign, the new president, Chad Griffin, who took over in June ( an appointment I praised), hasn’t said a word about Chick-fil-A since offering a quote responding to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s anti-gay comments weeks ago.

Actually, HRC has clammed Griffin up entirely. I was told by Fred Sainz, HRC’s media flack, that Griffin has “no time to waste” doing any interviews with gay media, including with me for my SiriusXM radio program and for HuffPost Gay Voices, until two and a half months into the job (September), while he’s “trying to wrap his hands around” the job (though Griffin gave puffy interviews to the AP and the Washington Post “Style” section).

Er, not good. I read that and was kind of baffled – what’s with the timeline on being accessible? When sh*t hits the activism fan, there needs to be a capability for nimble action. What would be the logical reason for HRC to shield Griffin from LGBT media on the Chick-Fil-A issue — we needed community leadership to re-focus the message on the real issues of the corporation’s discrimination and funding anti-gay orgs in the media.

I’m not saying this situation wasn’t a PR challenge – after all none of the LGBT organizations put together these protests, the actions formed organically through social media as Mike noted. But what if Griffin had been out front doing LGBT media (and mainstream media on the issue)? That certainly would have been a different ball game. Mike said that an interview with Griffin will happen in “coming weeks.” We’ll see.

The best thing to do at this point is to move on and for our orgs to learn how to successfully focus and harness grassroots energy. The right wing bible beaters do it quite well; they may be losing the culture war, but we don’t need to help them extend the harm caused by their bigotry.


Well, we do know where HRC’s energy (and $) has been focused on and letting Griffin speak to the media about–  marriage equality.  An announcement today that it is sinking big bucks into the state marriage equality initiatives this year. From its press release:

Today the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, announced a further cash investment of $1 million in the four states facing marriage-related ballot measures in November – Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.  The cash infusion brings HRC’s contributions to legislative and electoral marriage issues in the 2011-2012 cycle to $4.8 million.

“This is a tipping point year in the fight for marriage equality that requires significant investment,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “We are committed to making sure this is the year that our opponents can no longer claim Americans will not support marriage equality at the ballot box.”

Nationally, support for marriage equality is at 54 percent according to a June 2012 CNN poll.  Additionally public polls in Maine, Maryland and Washington show majorities of voters favoring marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples and polls in Minnesota also show voters there opposing the discriminatory constitutional amendment.

HRC has established a special ballot measure PAC to aid funding of all four states.  Today’s $1 million contribution will be split evenly among Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

“Bans on marriage for same-sex couples have sent the devastating message to young people that they cannot grow up to live their dreams and be full and equal citizens,” said Griffin. “This is the year we will change that.”

In Maine, voters will be asked for the first time in the country to affirmatively pass marriage for gays and lesbians at the ballot box. Voters in Maryland and Washington are being asked to affirm legislatively passed marriage equality laws. In Minnesota, voters will consider a constitutional amendment to ban gay and lesbian couples from marriage.

“All of these campaigns are winnable but they need resources to educate voters and fight back the lies from groups like the National Organization for Marriage,” said Griffin. “The country is moving in the direction of equality and a win in any of these states will show that marriage equality is quickly becoming a mainstream, American value.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding