The councilman issued a letter to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy July 25, decrying Cathy’s recent statement that he was “guilty as charged” in opposing marriage equality.
The company has long been allied with, and provided funds to, antigay organizations but Cathy’s statements provide the company’s first on-the-record opposition to LGBT rights.
“As an American you are legally entitled to your opinion, regardless of how insensitive and intolerant it may be, but as a fellow American and an elected member of Philadelphia City Council, I am entitled to express my opinion as well,” Kenney wrote, adding, “there is no place for this type of hate in our great City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”
Kenney told PGN this week that Cathy’s openness about his antigay views moved him to action.
“He came out publicly,” he said. “He made it clear as to his stance when it comes to civil rights and that’s his right. But it’s my right not to support his company.”
When council returns to session in September, Kenney said he plans to introduce a resolution “condemning [Cathy’s] bigoted views.”
“We need full disclosure like this. If he’s a bigot and taking my money and putting it into bigoted causes, everyone needs to know that,” he said. “When [Geno’s Steaks owner] Joey Vento did his ugly stuff, some people went and bought more steaks and that’s their right, but I would never go there again and that’s my choice. But it’s important for people to know where you stand.”
Religion has factored prominently into the discussion over Cathy’s comments; the executive proffered that his company supports the “biblical definition of the family unit” and that “we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation” when society attempts to “define what marriage is about.”
However, Kenney said marriage equality is not a religious issue “in any way, shape or form.”
“People struggled, died, went to jail, fought wars for full civil rights, and right now in most states, full civil rights are not afforded to all Americans because of this issue,” he said. “If I can enjoy the full civil liberties of being married, you should be able to also regardless of your sexual orientation. Why should we deny two long-term, committed gay men or women pension benefits, health benefits, tax deductions, hospital rights because of who they are? It’s unconscionable to me that in 2012 we are even arguing this. But it’s not about religion — it’s about gay people being denied civil rights.”
Kenney is not alone in his condemnations: A Chicago alderman said this week he will work to block the construction of the city’s second Chick-fil-A location, and the mayor of Boston said that, while he won’t actively prevent a
store from opening up in his city, the chain is not welcome.
Kenney noted that his “take a hike” comment was a metaphor, and that he would not work to prevent Chick-fil-A from setting up shop in the area.
There are currently eight Chick-fil-A stores within the city limits and about two-dozen more in the metro area.
Reaction to the letter on Kenney’s Facebook post has been mixed, but he said he’s confident that taking a public stand was the right choice.
“In the course of my career there have been a number of times these issues [have] come up and really bother me. It reminds me how much poisonous hatred venom there is, even now in 2012,” he said. “We’ve got some uglies here in Philadelphia, but at least we have a large [LGBT] community and a large ally community where people can live safely and happily. But to be a gay man or woman growing up in an isolated town in Texas, Oklahoma or Indiana, it’s got to be a really difficult life. We straight people need to be reminded of that now and then and continue to experience the ugly side of America so that we can are motivated to get involved in these issues and say what needs to be said.”