Just as organizers of NH Pride Fest were enjoying common ground recently established with the local owner, a new rift has developed: Discrimination against the gay pride rally from within the Lesbian/Bisexual/Gay/Transgendered community.
"As all this news was swirling around yesterday about the, we started hearing that some people from within our own community are coming together to stand against us," said Ryan Manseau, senior director for NH Pride Fest.
On Wednesday Manseau got a call about a major sponsor for Pride Fest being pressured by another local group to drop out because of the Chick-Fil-A sponsorship.
Manseau said he did not want to publicly name the group without trying to clear the air first.
"I've been making calls to the directors of these groups, but I haven't heard back," said Manseau. "They need to call me."
He said he wasn't sure if pressure was coming from individuals or from an organized effort.
More shocking to both Manseau, 22, and fellow event organizer, Tara Powell, 27, was the gesture of goodwill from Nashua Chick-Fil-A owner Anthony Piccola, who agreed last week to be an event sponsor for the gay pride rally set for Aug. 11 in Manchester.
"Chick-Fil-A is doing the thing everyone wanted them to do, by boycotting; they're changing their stance and showing support for the gay community – we realize this is just one store. But there are other owners out there who feel the same way as Anthony Piccola," Manseau said. "This is a start."
Neither say they are surprised that backlash is coming from within the gay community.
"We're fractured – we're a fractured community, and we have been for the last seven to to 10 years," Powell said. "Our motto is 'Unity Through Community.' That is what we're about, and that is why this event is so important to us."
Manseau said he understands that the hurt goes deep for many within the gay community over Chick-Fil-A's history of financial support for "anti-gay" programs and initiatives.
According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Chick-fil-A's anti-LGBT stance extends beyond just marriage equality. They cite the company's financial support of organizations defined as "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and programs that push therapy to help people "give up being gay." Chick-Fil-A has also supported organizations that have gone on record saying that being gay should be recriminalized in America, said GLAAD, and does not allow gay couples to participate in its "WinShape Retreats" aimed at growing leadership within the company.
Aaron McQuade, director of news and field media for GLAAD's New York office said that he was not aware of the NH Pride Fest, but as a former resident of Manchester, he thought it was "fantastic."
"We have not been asked to participate, but if we were closer to New Hampshire, we would," McQuade said. "It's a fantastic initiative."
As for Piccola, he did not respond yesterday to a request for an interview directly, but did provide a written statement Wednesday that read:
“As an independent franchise operator I am dedicated to supporting our local community in the best ways possible and we give to a wide variety of causes in Nashua. The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
Manseau said he considers Piccola a role model for all business owners, in Nashua and across the country.
"We at NH Pride are about changing the world – our world, in New Hampshire – we don't care if the LGBT community sees it as wrong. This is the end of the cold war; it's the truce. We're making a bridge. We need to change minds, not by boycotting a fast food restaurant; that was phase one," Manseau said. "Now, it's time to work with companies like Chick-Fil-A. We need to work together to make change."
The news of this unlikely partnership between NH Pride Fest and Chick-Fil-A coincided with a national initiative launched by former GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee, who declared Aug. 1 "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day." Huckabee urged people to show support for CEO Dan Cathy by pledging to patronize the restaurant Wednesday, a response to the backlash against the chain in recent weeks, following publicity over Cathy's statements.
On Wednesday long lines formed at the Nashua mall fast food restaurant and remained steady all day, with reports coming from both camps that the lines were there to show support for Cathy as well as Piccola.
News was also circulating that Chick-Fil-A had sold record amounts of food Wednesday, word that spread via social networks, including this message posted on Twitter by Christian evangelical minister and best-selling author, Rick Warren:
On Aug. 3 a national counter protest is planned, as members of the gay community are urged to head to their local Chick-Fil-A and participate in a "Kiss In," by locking lips with a member of the same sex.