Chicken chain with anti-gay history coming to Toronto

Chick-Fil-A, who donated millions of dollars to groups that funded conversion therapy and opposed marriage equality, announces plans to move into the city in 2019


Toronto’s rich food scene boasts its share of killer fried chicken. There’s the classic stuff at Dirtybird, Taiwanese at Hot Star and Kanpai, Japanese at Gushi, five spice-scented at Bar Fancy, and hot Nashville-style at Five Points.

But there’s one thing our fried chicken offerings were missing out on up until now: Donations to anti-gay causes!

That’s right — American chain Chick-Fil-A, also known as the place Ben Folds got a job after he dropped out of college and grew a moustache and a mullet, has announced plans to expand further into Canada, with a Toronto location scheduled to arrive in 2019. (A location at the Calgary Airport was the first to arrive in 2014.)

In a press release, president and CEO Tim Tassopoulos praised Toronto’s “diverse and caring people and vibrant restaurant culture with a deep talent pool.”

However, the company’s apparent celebration of diversity hasn’t historically extended to queer people. Chick-Fil-A’s charitable network, WinShape Foundation, was found in 2012 to have donated millions of dollars to groups funding anti-gay “conversion therapy” and opposing the fight for marriage equality in the U.S.

That year, COO Dan Cathy, son of founder S. Truett Cathy, told a radio host the following: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

A wave of protests, kiss-ins and negative publicity followed. But Republican poltician Mike Huckabee instituted a “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day”, and the chain saw a 12 per cent soar in sales that year.

By 2014, the company was attempting to wash its hands of its anti-gay past, vowing to cease supporting groups with political agendas. Individual franchisees have even swung in the opposite direction, donating to LGBTQ causes and receiving blowback from Christian groups.

But despite the company’s attempts to rehabilitate its imageThinkProgress reported last month that 2016 tax forms showed $1.8 million in donations to groups that engage in anti-gay practices. Meanwhile, Human Rights Campaign’s “buyers’ guide” still gives the company a big ol’ goose egg on its commitment to equality in the workplace.

Anyway, if you’ve got a hankering for a moist, crusty bird, might we suggest these favourite local haunts, presumably none of whom have ever banned queer couples from company retreats or given money to groups that support recriminalizing homosexuality.

UPDATE (01/03/2020): At the end of 2019, Chick-Fil-A announced they would stop making donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations, specifically singling out Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. But Chick-Fil-A made similar promises in 2014, only for watchdogs to unearth millions more in donations after that. In short: we’ll believe it when (and if) we see it.

food@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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