It can be a breath of fresh air to see lawmakers standing up for what’s right. That’s what we saw last week when New York State Assembly member Harry Bronson wrote a letter to the New York State Thruway Authority requesting that Chick-fil-A restaurants not be included in its $450 million service-station modernization project.
After years of millions in donations to organizations hostile to LGBTQ+ rights, the decision to approve @ChickfilA as an approved concession at our rest stops is concerning to say the least.
— Harry B. Bronson (@HarryBBronson) July 10, 2021
As you may be aware, Chick-fil-A and its founders have a long and controversial history of opposing the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and families. Beginning in June 2012, following a series of public comments opposing same-sex marriage by Dan T. Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s chief executive officer, related issues have arisen between Chick-fil-A and the LGBTQ+ community. This followed reports that Chick-fil-A’s charitable endeavor, the S. Truett Cathy operated WinShape Foundation, had donated millions of dollars to organizations hostile to LGBTQ+ rights.
As recently as 2017, tax filings showed that the groups supported by Chick-fil-A expanded to include The Salvation Army, which has a public record of the rejection of LGBTQ+ rights. It is also our understanding that the charitable arm of the organization is still supporting anti-LGBTQ+ rights.
We are requesting that you re-examine the list of approved concessions for these rest spots [sic] considering Chick-fil-A’s action against the LGBTQ+ community.
(You can sign the letter yourself right here.)
We’re all well aware that Chick-fil-A has historically promoted anti-LGBTQ groups and that it’s founder still does, but it can be hard to actually enforce your values when that involves saying no to your favorite chicken sandwich. Since many don’t know (or don’t want to acknowledge) the harm done by Chick-fil-A and Dan Cathy, they might see one of their restaurants at a rest stop and think What’s the big deal?
Including Chick-fil-A on the New York State Thruway wouldn’t qualify as state endorsement of religion, but it doesn’t look good for a state that has “taken great strides to expand and protect the rights of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers” to have a famously anti-LGBTQ+ company be the first thing travelers see in their state.
As Bronson said:
The difference in this scenario is it’s on state Thruway Authority property and they are leasing it, so it’s in essence the state saying, we are going to offer them an opportunity for them to make millions and millions of dollars, even though we know what the history is.
It’s not a bad argument. It’s not “cancel culture” either; it’s consequence culture. But for all this effort, what has he accomplished?
Not a lot, unfortunately. The Thruway Authority, rather than reconsider the decision to choose Chick-fil-A, gave a vague, buzzword-filled response to Bronson:
The New York State Thruway Authority, its Board of Directors, and staff support an inclusive environment that treats the tens of millions of people that travel our system with dignity and respect… There are no state taxpayer dollars or toll payer funds supporting the redevelopment of the Thruway’s 27 service areas. Every restaurant brand included by Empire State Thruway Partners has a contractual responsibility, and is legally required, under New York State law, including the New York State Human Rights Law and Executive Orders, to adhere to the inclusive and non-discriminatory standards that New York State embraces.
But no one was accusing Chick-fil-A of discriminating against customers. It’s a response to an issue no one was raising. It’s a question of where their profits are going and whether New York, which has the upper hand in this negotiation, wants to indirectly support those causes.
While Bronson’s letter may not stop the decision to include Chick-fil-A restaurants at rest stops, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have spoken up. By taking a stand, Bronson made it known that even though the restaurant has its fans, many others don’t want to support a company whose founding family has harmed so many people. Meanwhile, this letter could also help more LGBTQ+ accepting individuals make the decision never to eat at Chick-fil-A, effectively voting with their dollars.
(Screenshot via WROC)