Nel's New Day

August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-A and Health Care Day, Ironic Combination

Today was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. At least that’s what Mike Huckabee wanted. After the president, Dan Cathy, came out with his anti-LGBT statements on the Biblical Recorder, Jim Henson Co. pulled its toys as giveaways in the stores and gave the money already received from the company to GLAAD. At least two mayors (Boston and Chicago) have said that the franchises are not welcome there, throwing fuel on the Chick-fil-A Wars.

Huckabee, who lost 105 pounds before he gained some back, invited the people of the United States to gain weight at Chick-fil-A. He called on people to honor “the godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A” today. It was estimated that 600,000 people showed up, gaining about 300,000 pounds if they each ate the Deluxe chicken Sandwich meal and the brownie sundae.

The arguments against protesting against Chick-fil-A is that people who own companies should be able to have their own opinions and we should all be tolerant. Lawsuits, however, show that the company walks its bigoted talk.  Houston resident Aziz Latif, 25, was praised as a “great manager” a week before he was fired in 2000 after four years with the company. His lawsuit against Chick-fil-A in 2002 claimed that he was fired the day after he refused to pray to Jesus during a training session. Latif also charged that the company refused to pay his medical bills and expenses while he was a participant in Chick-fil-A’s employee benefit plan. The case has been settled on undisclosed terms.

More recently, Brenda Honeycutt, is also suing the company for gender discrimination. Jeff Howard, the owner and operator of a Duluth (GA) Chick-fil-A, fired Honeycutt on June 27, 2011, so she could be a “stay home mother.” According to court documents, Howard held meetings without Honeycutt present and eventually replaced her with a male employee. Before her firing, Honeycutt’s performance had been “satisfactory-to-above satisfactory.”

Religious guru Kevin Swanson displayed his ignorance on two fronts when he joked about muppets being sodomites and wondered if they supported NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association which normalizes pedophilia. It’s probably impossible to teach Swanson that homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same. He’s also unaware that the muppets were sold to Disney years ago. No muppets were ever provided to—or removed from—Chick-fil-A.

The debate about the homophobia that Chick-fil-A’s president displayed,  isn’t helping the company. Market research firm YouGov reports that Chick-fil-A’s BrandIndex score had fallen 40 percent nationally since Dan Cathy’s anti-LGBT announcement. The BrandIndex score averages other measurements, including “quality, impression, value, reputation, satisfaction and willingness to recommend.” On July 19, 2012, Chick-fil-A’s score was 65, one of the highest in the industry; less than one week later it was at 39. The score in the South fell from 80 to 44, and the brand went from 76 to 35 in the Northeast.

Not all Chick-fil-A franchises are anti-LGBT. The only one in New Hampshire, owned by Anthony Picolia, is a major sponsor of NH Pridefest to be held in Manchester on August 11 this year. Picolia said, “In both my personal and professional life, I have had and continue to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community. It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

The money from the franchises, however, has made billionaires out of the owners Dan Cathy, 59, and Donald Cathy , known as Bubba, the two sons of Chick-fil-A’s founder, Samuel Truett Cathy. The money that feeds to the corporation goes not only to the millions that Dan Cathy has personally donated but also to the $19.5 million that the corporation has also given anti-LGBT organizations. Each of the company’s 1,615 locations averaged gross sales $2.9 million in 2011, $400,000 more than runner-up McDonalds. The company also operates restaurants under the names Truett’s Grill and Dwarf House.

August 1 is also a day of real celebration for 47 million women in the United States. It’s the first day that all new and renewing health plans must cover a number of health services—free!  This is the day that insurers have to provide women free contraception, saving everyone who wants it about $50 per month. Women who use contraceptives consistently and correctly will have only five percent of all unintended pregnancies. Also free are well woman visits; mammograms; pap tests; screening for gestational diabetes; domestic violence screening and counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; HPV testing; screening for sexually transmitted infections and counseling for sexually-active women; HIV screening and counseling; and DNA testing for high-risk strains of HPV.

If we can keep the Republicans from overturning the Affordable Care Act, 2014 is the year that insurance companies can’t charge women more than men for the same health plans. At that time no one can be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

The Affordable Care Act is making Republicans more and more incensed, causing them to scale up their egregious statements. In decrying this day of celebration for women, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) said, “I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that’s Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that’s the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

Kelly’s objection is apparently to the loss of freedom because women will now receive contraception. Almost 5,000 women die of pregnancy-related causes each year in the United States. Almost 40,000 women die of breast cancer each year. Another 4,000+ women die of cervical cancer, almost entirely caused by HPV, each year. Infant mortality in the United States is 5.28 per 1,000 live births; 25 other countries have a lower mortality rate. As Krauthammer said about Romney, I have no adjectives to describe these men who think that women don’t deserve contraception.

It’s ironic that conservatives define “freedom” as keeping women from getting adequate health care just as Dan Cathy may define freedom as taking away rights from LGBT people. Today I celebrated by feeling joyful that millions of women in this country will have a better life because of President Obama’s health care act.  Someday I’ll celebrate the day that LGBT people gain their freedom.

If you missed Chick-fil-A today, you might want to support LGBT-rights activists when they gather Friday outside Chick-fil-A locations for National Same-Sex Kiss Day. They plan to embrace in kiss-ins to draw attention to the company’s donations to anti-marriage-equality groups.

Note: Just as I was posting the above blog, I received this from friend Christie Gibrich, a wonderful youth librarian in Texas, of all places. It’s worth reading. Thanks for writing this, Christie!

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