Protesters outside of the new Toronto location of Chick-fil-A. Credit: Corey Misquita/Xtra; Francesca Roh/Xtra
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We went to Toronto’s Chick-fil-A protest — and a lot of people didn’t care about all the homophobia

Gay rights or fried chicken? Can’t decide

Once again American fast-food chain Chick-fil-A is trying to infiltrate the Canadian market, but it hasn’t been that easy given the company’s anti-gay history.

The franchise opened its new Toronto location on Friday at one of the city’s busiest intersections — and LGBTQ2 activists came out in force. When the store opened mid-morning, the corner was surrounded by both protesters and Chick-fil-A fans alike.

But for all of the rowdiness on either side of the debate — from the LGBTQ2 folks who came out to protest the company’s support of anti-gay causes, to the Evangelical Chick-fil-A stans repping their chicken sammie, waffle fries, sweet tea and Jesus — many in line seemed . . . indifferent to the whole thing.

There was the crowd of curious passersby on their lunch breaks, the foodie hypebeasts looking to check another greasy American franchise off their lists, the YouTube mukbangers ready to film themselves gorging on chicken and the American expats looking for a familiar meal.

We spent our morning at the Toronto location, and, as we spoke to folks in line, we heard a common refrain: Sure, we care about gay rights! But have you tried the chicken sandwich?

Here’s the background: Chick-fil-A has donated millions of dollars to groups that discriminate against LGBTQ2 people. And we have receipts.

In 2010, WinShape Foundation, a charity started by the founder of Chick-fil-A, donated $1.9 million to various groups that oppose same-sex marriage. The following year, it was revealed that the company had been donating to anti-LGBTQ2 groups as far back as 2003. Current CEO Dan Cathy gave a radio interview in 2012 in which he said he and the company do not believe in gay marriage because of their religious values.

Religious values are central to Chick-fil-A’s operations. The first Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta in 1967 by devout Baptist S Truett Cathy (that’s Dan’s dad, FYI). Cathy’s values still influence the chain’s operations today. In fact, like its US counterparts, the new Chick-fil-A in Toronto will be closed on Sundays. “[Our founder] Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose,” the company’s website reads. Yes, Jesus needs rest and so do you! 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♂️

This practice isn’t the only one rooted in religion. The company’s former mission statement, which is no longer available to view on its website, was: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

The company has donated money to Exodus International, a conversion therapy organization, that closed in 2013. The organization’s former leaders wrote an open letter in 2014 saying that — surprise conversion therapy is harmful.

People in front of the new Chick-fil-A location in Toronto. Credit: Corey Misquita/Xtra

When protests from the LGBTQ2 community grew more prevalent, the owners of Chick-fil-A began to downplay their opinions on gay rights. In 2012, WinShape Foundation released a statement that said Chick-fil-A promised to “no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for marriage.”

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2014, Dan Cathy said he regretted being involved in discussions on gay marriage but still asserted his beliefs. “I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine,” Cathy told AJC. “I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on. And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service.”

But despite promises to do better, Chick-fil-A still donated nearly $2 million to organizations affiliated with anti-LGBTQ2 causes in 2016. Earlier this year, ThinkProgress reported that Chick-fil-A donated more than $1.8 million to organizations with a record of anti-LGBTQ2 discrimination in 2017. This continuous support of anti-gay causes is the reason why protesters showed up to Chick-fil-A’s Toronto opening on Friday.

One of the protesters during Chick-fil-A's opening in Toronto. Credit: Corey Misquita/Xtra

By the way, we reached out to Chick-fil-A’s communications spokesperson. At the time of publication we haven’t heard back, but we’ll update the story if they get back to us.

Now that you’re caught up with the drama — and you’ve read the receipts — maybe it’s time to decide whether Chick-fil-A is really worth it. Or Toronto, maybe just wait for that sweet, sweet, homophobia-free Popeyes fried chicken sandwich to make its way to our city instead.