Two LGBT groups from Massachusetts have withdrawn from the, citing what they called the event organizer's promotion of the Chick-fil-A brand.
Their decision, announced Thursday, is related to the owner of the Chick-fil-A in Nashua expressing support for and his donation of food for the event at Veterans Park in Manchester.
NH Pride Fest does not in any way support Chick-fil-A, according to its board. But they do support Anthony Picolia, the franchise owner, who will hand out 200 free chicken sandwiches Saturday, according to Bryan Manseau, NH Pride Fest director.
Manseau, in a phone interview with Nashua Patch, said the Chick-fil-A owner is one of about 29 vendors for Pride Fest, where he expects a crowd of 2,000. He said he spoke with representatives of the groups withdrawing from the event, but could not settle their differences of opinion.
NH Pride Fest members see the Nashua restaurant owner as a local hero for speaking out, not as a foot soldier of a corporation that supports policies they find discriminatory.
Manseau, however, said he did initially worry about the donated chicken sandwiches being interpreted as an embrace of the corporation.
"It is a fear of mine," he said in the interview, "but the board doesn't feel that way."
GetEQUAL Massachusetts and Join the Impact Massachusetts are the groups withdrawing support from NH Pride Fest.
The organizations, in a press release, stated:
"We were looking forward to participating in NH Pride as individuals of a community that stretches beyond state borders. Unfortunately, our ‘Pinkwashing of Chick-fil-A” blog post was met with charges of bullying. NH Pride’s continued support of their decision to promote the Chick-fil-A name has forced us to reconsider our participation in their Pride Event, an event we were happy to see return to New Hampshire and one we continue to support, but have determined best to withdraw from."
Chick-fil-A makes no bones about being opposed to marriage equality, nor about the millions of dollars they’ve given to defend “biblical marriage” and the “traditional family." This is a curious position for a corporation, or an individual store beholden to that corporation, to support considering the perennial battle in New Hampshire to retain their equal marriage law. Removed from much of the media coverage is the fact that Chick-fil-A doesn’t restrict their anti-gay discrimination donations to the marriage fight but they also give money to ex-gay conversion therapy ministries and other anti-gay groups -- including one organization identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group" -- engaged in various campaigns to prohibit and take away our equal rights like NH’s unanimous defeat of a much-lobbied-against transgender rights bill.
Despite the Nashua franchisee’s declaration of being welcoming to the gay community, his restaurant -- like all Chick-fil-A restaurants -- gives 15% gross + 50% net profits back to the Atlanta-based parent company, from which Chick-fil-A is free to donate to whomever they want. The $50 booth fee for NH Pride is a paltry price for the local Chick-fil-A to pay in order to market a product, in the hopes of gaining new fans who will produce more profits -- profits which will end up supporting anti-gay groups working against the interests of the very people and their loved ones NH Pride is celebrating. The Chick-fil-A story for the LGBTQ community has always been one about a company specifically supporting efforts that harm our community, not about a private citizen’s personal opinions.
Cathy Kristofferson, a board member with Join the Impact Massachusetts, said in the groups' announcement, "This isn’t about chicken, and this isn’t about individual acts of kindness. This isn’t about the Cathy family’s personal opinions, and it isn’t even really about marriage equality. This is about lives -- all our lives -- and whether or not we ever get to live them freely and fully equal. This is what the Fight for the 14th is all about. Won’t you join us?”
In one response to Join the Impact's criticism earlier this week, NH Pride Fest produced a video to accuse them of trying to bully them. The YouTube video is attached here.