Chick-fil-A is a chain known for three things: delicious chicken, excellent customer service and its owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage. With a Kalamazoo location on the way, students are split on the cultural and political significance of having the chain operate within city limits.
The national controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A dates back to the start of this decade when it Equality Matters, a LGBTQ advocacy group, obtained and released documents showing that S. Truett Cathy and his family, the owners of Chick-fil-A, donated $1.9 million to anti-gay groups in 2010. This, along with other allegations, led to a 2012 boycott of the franchise. The controversy has followed the franchise, but further protests and boycotts have yet to slow the company’s growth.
Because of the owners’ beliefs, some students on campus are concerned about the restaurant coming to Kalamazoo. One student, Braiden McEachern, shared his concerns.
McEachern is a music education at WMU. McEachern identifies as a gay man, and said that seeing friends and classmates eat at Chick-fil-A will be difficult.
“It hurts that the business will be visited by people I know,” he said. “I don’t think that people look into the ideology of businesses that they support. They just look and see good chicken and don’t really think about it.”
McEachern said that ignorance among those who eat at Chick-fil-A, while still hurtful, is understandable. What hurts most, he said, is when people who know the history of Chick-fil-A, and other businesses that advocate against the LGBTQ community.
“If someone I knew and was close to ate at Chick-fil-A, and knew what it supports, I would see them completely different,” he said. “They’re supporting a business that actually wants to kill me, so I wouldn’t trust that person anymore.”
McEachern said that he thinks things are getting better, slowly, but that he worries that people are too tired to work on making societal change.
“People are working long hours, they’re worried about not having insurance, so when it’s time to eat they don’t have the energy to think about where it came from.”
Other students disagreed with McEachern’s assessment of the situation. Taylor McGraw, a psychology student and a member of WMU’s LGBTQ community, said that she’s excited for Chick-fil-A to come to Kalamazoo.
“I don’t think about what the owners believe when I go to get some chicken,” said McGraw. “A lot of businesses support bad stuff, so if that’s a problem you’re going to have a hard time finding anywhere to go.”
McEarchen said that while a lot of businesses are problematic, there are some that are better than others.
“It’s hard to escape business. The way businesses are set up, the role they play in American society, feels almost like the Church or the Crown. But when you look at pride month, see how some businesses are embracing diversity, you see how things can be better,” he said.
Zoning officials approved the new Chick-fil-A this spring. It will be the first Chik-fil-A in the city limits of Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo County is already home to one Chik-fil-A, located in Portage.