I’m sure everyone had the same thought as I did this weekend upon hearing the news that New York City tabloids were splashing a picture of Anderson Cooper’s partner kissing another man in Central Park: ”Well, at least it’s not another story about Chick-fil-A.”
Okay, so perhaps my sentiment wasn’t universal, but my appetite for tabloid gossip columns is about the same as my appetite for any episode of Real Housewives, which would be miniscule to nonexistent. On the bright side, now everyone can see that being treated equally in America’s celebrity media means gay celebrities can be treated equally shabbily.
But that’s a distraction from the more important distraction, namely the never-ending saga of Chick-fil-A. I’ll admit that it didn’t seem a distraction to me at first — I’ve written about it here, and we’ve long tracked the anti-gay history and actions of the company’s owners on our website. As the national furor built in the lead-up to Mike Huckabee’s day of support for the chicken chain, I even got into a bit of a Facebook argument with a cousin’s wife, who had declared herself sick of hearing about Chick-fil-A.
But a couple weeks later, with the Huckabee’s publicity stunt a success and gay news sites, email lists, blogs and Facebook feeds still as clogged with Chick-fil-A as the arteries of the fast-food chain’s biggest fans, I’m as sick of hearing about Chick-fil-A as she was.
This feeling requires a disclaimer: I’m not sick of efforts to expose anti-gay corporate actions. I am totally aware that this is not just about marriage equality but about Chick-fil-A’s support for horrendous anti-gay efforts in places such as Uganda. But we lost the framing battle early on. For most of non-LGBT America, this is about gay marriage. Huckabee and the National Organization for Marriage scored a point. These things happen, but it’s not the end of the game.
Right now, we have a bigger victory under our belts — a president who declared his support for marriage equality. That act didn’t win the game for us, but it was a game changer. People across the country know this and, because the Chick-fil-A effort got framed for them as ”gay marriage,” it’s easy for them to buy the line that activists are suppressing free speech. Unfortunately, people often believe things that are wrong — that criticizing an opinion is a violation of the First Amendment, that LGBT people can’t be Boy Scout troop leaders, that Real Housewives isn’t a misogynistic horrorshow — and it takes a lot of time to correct the error.
Chick-fil-A is a side order to the larger picture here. We’re three months out from an election that could be extraordinarily close, an election that could replace a president who presided over the end of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and mainstreamed support for marriage equality with a president who has continuously pledged hostility or feigned indifference to LGBT lives. This election is extraordinarily important for the future of our community.
(As an aside, and in preemption for the standard complaints from gay Republicans about ”single issue” voting, my vote is also based on economics, which are just as vitally important.)
Chick-fil-A and its corporate activism against LGBT people at home and abroad will still be here for us to deal with come November. But if we continue to get distracted from the larger goal, we may end up with an even bigger problem in the White House.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. You can reach him at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com or follow him on Twitter, @seanbugg.