Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Reveals that Homophobic Chick-fil-A Is, Shockingly, Also Sexist

Surprise! Your new least favorite fast food chain is not only homophobic — it’s sexist, too.

No? You’re not surprised? Me either.

Here’s what happened: on June 27, 2011, in Duluth, Georgia, Chick-fil-A General Manager Brenda Honeycutt was fired despite performance evaluations of satisfactory to above satisfactory. She was told by her supervisor, Jeff Howard, that she was being terminated so that she could be a “stay at home mother.” Honeycutt was excluded from the management meetings held to make this decision, and to make matters worse, she was replaced with a male employee.

Honeycutt filed a lawsuit in May of this year, suing Chik-fil-A for gender discrimination. The court document claims that throughout her employment, Howard “routinely made comments to the Plaintiff suggesting that as a mother she should stay home with her children.” The document also points out that this is a pattern, and names a handful of other female employes who were demoted and or terminated only to be replaced by men.

Chick-fil-A has been generating quite a buzz recently because of the anti-gay politics of its owners. Given COO Dan Cathy’s statement that, “we are very much supportive of the family — the Biblical definition of the family unit,” it makes perfect sense that they believe in a Biblical definition of womanhood as well. That is, women are for making babies. Period.

The root of homophobia, in many cases, stems from a fear of disrupting foundational gender roles. The idea that men should go to work while women stay home and cook/clean/raise the babies is turned upside-down and inside-out by queerness. If you want your women strictly feminine and your men strictly masculine, and you want your feminine women to depend entirely on your masculine men, there isn’t room for relationships other than straight ones. And straight relationships are further policed by having strict roles for women.

In my opinion, you can’t separate sexism from homophobia. Even though gender and sexuality are obviously two separate categories, queer sexualities upend the traditional gender balance that hateful scumbags like Dan Cathy and Jeff Howard hold so dear.

Last week, Riese questioned the prominence of the Chick-fil-A debacle on the national and queer activist stage, saying,

“The problematic aspect of the discourse around Chick-fil-A is that it isolates the anti-gay rhetoric and investments as its sole transgression — sign a petition to make him apologize for what he said so we can all go eat chicken sandwiches again! Yeah — not so fast.”

This latest addition to the list of reasons why Chick-fil-A sucks complicates matters since the opposition comes from someone who worked for Chick-fil-A, and who is suing for the right to be reinstated to her position.

I’m not about to judge anyone’s right to work where they want to. A job is a job, and most people have to take work where they can get it. But even if Chick-fil-A is court-ordered to reinstate Brenda Honeycutt, that won’t make it a safe space to be a woman. What about all of the other women who were fired for this same reason? What about the fact that firing a woman so she can be a stay at home mom is in line with the company’s core values? I’m sure that this won’t be the last we hear of problematic politics within the fast food industry. But maybe it’s time to we stopped trying to make them respect our rights, and turn our focus to supporting the institutions that already do.

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Gabrielle writes facts and feelings from an old brick house in an outer borough of New York City. When she's not writing about lesbians, she's editing/writing/producing things at her day job in the beauty department of a well-known online style magazine. In her spare time, she helps organize the New York City Dyke March and makes up songs about her dog.

Gabrielle has written 96 articles for us.

45 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    Unfortunately, this is not surprising in the least.

    However, this might catch the attention of those who are able to turn a blind eye to Chick-Fil-A’s homophobic streak. Perhaps more people will pay attention to their general problem of discrimination and stop eating there.
    One can only hope…

  2. Thumb up 2

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    Well…at least they follow through on what they truly believe in?
    joking aside, it’s just a chicken sandwich! People really can’t not eat a greasy MSG sodium loaded chicken sandwich even if it goes against their good conscience?? No wonder our nation is so obese

  3. Thumb up 11

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    Great article — it’s frightening but yeah, not all that surprising. I read this article (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-26/god-and-gay-marriage-what-chick-fil-a-could-learn-from-marriott#r=read) in Businessweek on another Christian-owned enterprise, Marriott. It’s owned by Mormons, but instead of fighting against gay marriage, Marriott stepped up benefits for domestic partnerships.

    “Marriott has both a deep faith and a deep understanding of his responsibility as a leader. Many of his shareholders, customers, and employees don’t belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their values matter, too.”

    That’s exactly what Dan Cathy’s missing.

  4. Thumb up 7

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    I rarely post on Facebook about my political beliefs (moderately liberal) or my religious beliefs (United Methodist), but my very close friend made a post about Chick Fil A, do I commented. She said “I love Jesus. I love Chick Fil A. I love gay people”. And 35 people liked it! I’m so glad I have her support, but I had to speak out against the company. So I wrote this: “I love you for loving me! But Chick Fil A actively donates millions of dollars to organizations who are trying to limit my rights as a citizen and call me an abomination. So I don’t love Chick Fil A” which I thought was fine, gave my position without being combative. And she replied “Well everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But just for you, I’ll boycott on Sundays”. And you know? I found that really hurtful. Because she goes on professing how accepting she is or whatever, but really, through her patronage, she’s supporting those hurtful causes. Idk. I guess I don’t have much of a point other than the fact that I’m really sad. This whole media thing about the company has really turned personal for me. And I’m hurt. Really hurt. Because she and I are really close and we’ve even worshipped together; she loves me and my gf! But yet she just doesn’t care about how her actions are limiting my rights as a human?? I’m losing faith in this country, but I know I shouldn’t bc of places like this.

    Has anyone else experienced this kind of thing?

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      OMG ME. It’s awful. I’m sorry.

      My great uncle is over here sharing pictures of Sarah Palin proudly eating at chick-fil-a and even younger people that I didn’t expect this from are just… being AWFUL.

      I’m just not really sure how anyone can be so proud of being a discriminating piece of shit.

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      I would be hurt too. Although, I’m not sure if your friend is aware but I do believe Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays. So, she’s going to boycott them on a day they are closed anyway? Bunk.

      I agree with Rachel, Facebook sucks. I’ve picked my battles this week and no one really seems to get it.

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          I KNOW RIGHT!! That’s like almost the worst part. That she was going to “boycott” on the day they close to observe their day of rest. Ugh. It really hurts. I cried to my gf about it last night and I’m not even much of a crier.

          And honestly though, she can’t see that it’s not about an opinion. I support people having opinions! I do! But when they’re trying to turn their opinion into the law of the whole country – that’s where I have a problem. You know, I don’t particularly love strip clubs or burlesque dance shows, but would never donate money to an organization trying to ban them! My friends love those type of places, and who am I to judge? So it hurts me that she can’t adopt that mentality. And that she’s professing to be loving of gay people, but still actively eating somewhere that is so anti-gay. :(

          So many feelings!

  5. Thumb up 3

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    Forever21 prints ‘John 3:16′ on the bottoms of all their shopping bags. Yet there’s no news (at least not yet) about them tossing out millions to anti-gay organizations. So see Chick-Fil-A, we can be religious without infringing human rights.

    But seriously, 29,000 children starve to death daily in Africa. And they’re really this concerned about restricting marriage rights? Let’s turn our attention to more relevant issues deserving of our $40 million. >.<

    • Thumb up 4

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      Not to be That Person, but Forever 21 is actually a terrible company that regularly comes under fire for human rights abuses. They’re notorious users of sweatshop labor, both in the US and abroad (see the documentary ‘Made in LA’). They’re constantly sued for stealing the designs of small artists and then effectively silencing them by wielding their massive multi-billion-dollar corporation powers and settling out of court. And former employees have reported experiencing pressure to join the Forever 21’s owners’ particularly cultish variety of Christianity. Not to mention, the company cheaply makes clothes that are meant to be worn a few times and then disposed of when they falls apart or go out of fashion, which is an incredibly resource-intensive and pollution-heavy process. Decimating the world’s air, water, and land in the name of capitalism is likewise a very serious human rights infringement.

      I get what you were going for and agree with that sentiment, but Forever 21 is the last company you should have picked to attempt to make your point. Additionally, while I am being That Person, you might consider refraining from using the “children are starving to death in Africa” line. Children starve to death everywhere, and falling back on that idea to communicate that there exist more serious concerns promotes an extremely negative and false stereotype of Africa. In the west we popularly conceive of Africa *not* as the massive and diverse continent it is, but rather as a homogeneous entity full of nothing but famine, war, and despair. That isn’t cool and we really do need to break the centuries-old cycle that permits this stereotype to live on.

  6. Thumb up 3

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    I was the girl who boycotted Circuit City cause they built over the prairie dog field near our apartment when I was 5, so I get activism and voting with your dollar.

    But seriously, those chicken sandwiches are just… so… delicious. Damn you Chick-fil-A and your hate and your delicious, taunting chicken sandwiches.

  7. Thumb up 15

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    “it makes perfect sense that they believe in a Biblical definition of womanhood as well. That is, women are for making babies. Period.”

    That’s just part of what’s so fucked up about their sexism, though — women in the bible are judges and teachers and business owners and concubines and any number of things apart from stay at home mothers. The bible unequivocally does not limit women to that role. They’re putting words in god’s mouth to justify their own hatred of women.

    I would hate to be them on the judgement day they believe is coming, you know? I’ve read the bible. They are in serious trouble.

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      Pretty much everything I wanted to say, but much more eloquently. The one thing I know for sure after reading the Bible is that everyone is going to be surprised at who is in the front of the line going through the pearly gates.

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      This! OMGosh. I’m not a big fan of organized religion, but even when I was I was known for being a “Bible feminist.” At three years old I was asked to give a sermon on anything I wanted and I immediately started lecturing about women in the Bible. What about Deobrah (the prophetess who led an army) or Jael (who put a friggin’ tent stake through a tyrant’s head!) or any other number of strong women who bucked societal norms and were praised for it? My gosh, some of Christ’s best buds in the New Testament were prostitutes, beggers and unmarried women.

      I don’t get where all these “traditional” values and norms are coming from. But I can guess they’re all from old men running organized religions created centuries after Christianity began.

  8. Thumb up 8

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    For the most part I’ve been fairly removed from this whole situation as I live outside of the States (and I don’t eat fast-food anyway), though I am American. However, this morning stuff got real for me when I logged onto facebook and one of the first things on my newsfeed was a picture of Dan Cathy with the caption that read something along the lines of “Here’s to a great American” shared by none other than my own brother who had previously shared a photos in support of the North Carolina amendment vote back in May. I simply hid the post because I don’t really do much on facebook and I’m a pretty private person, and I didn’t want to get into anything like that on the internet.

    I have yet to tell anyone about my non-heterosexuality, but I would really liked to because you know what, I’m proud of it and I’m downright happy about it. But, how am I supposed to do that when my own family considers people like me to be second class human beings? Although they know me (I’m the one with the good head on my shoulders and the one who has my shit together) and love me very much, I am incredibly frightened of what they will do if I tell them.

    This is a much longer comment than I had intended (and slightly off-topic), but I just wanted to get that off of my chest. Apologies.

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      In a way, I know where you’re coming from. I obviously don’t know everything about you or your story. But I was the “golden child” of my family. The only one with her life together. Part of a very religious household who were very openly anti-gay.

      When I came out, the world kind of blew up for a while. Worst for me was how disappointed my family was. I lost all their respect. It was really bad for a while.

      But then a miracle happened. They started to realize that I actually was happy and still had everything together. I started getting their respect back. And because I was a well-adjusted lesbian, I made them question their previous beliefs.

      My family is still very religious, but they’re a lot more accepting. My mom refuses to vote on any “gay” issues. She’s still part of a religion that condemns me, but she refuses to take legal action that will hurt me. It’s not perfect. But it’s a start.

      I honestly believe most people hate because the issue they’re railing against isn’t personal. Once they realize they really know someone they’re working against, once it becomes part of their reality, it shakes up their world and makes them reconsider it. Some still decide to hate. But that’s a huge decision: to consciously decide to hate. I don’t know how hardcore your family is and I would never tell you that you have to come out or anything, but though things might be bad for a while, your family might surprise you.

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        Their view of me as “the well-adjusted one” is the little strand of hope that I’m holding onto, that it will somehow all be okay, even if not at first. And that’s a lot more than some others can say.

        I think I’ll start with my tiny group of friends, who I know are non-judgemental and will still think of me as an awesome friend no matter what. Then maybe I’ll work my way through my less religious family members and the ones I think will probably take it better.

        All I can do is hope for the best. Thank you for the response! It’s always nice to hear/see someone else verbalize (typolize?) a similar situation.

  9. Thumb up 5

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    I find this about the furthest thing from shocking. The jump for homophobia to sexism isn’t a big one at all. They’re once again using out of context bible quotes to justify their actions; so if it’s wrong for two people of the same sex to get married, it is also wrong if a woman does anything except for serve her husband and take care of her children. Next thing that will come out is that they’re racist, and that won’t shock me either.

    At this point I just wish we had a gov’t that could dissolve the company for being bigoted, hateful jerk faces! …and yes I really wanted to say something more powerful than “jerk faces.”

  10. Thumb up 4

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    I think my college campus has been talking about a boycott of out on-campus Chick-fil-A, given recent events. I really hope they decide to go through with it! The more you hear about the company the worse they sound. I’m more than happy to get my fries elsewhere.

  11. Thumb up 3

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    “maybe it’s time to we stopped trying to make them respect our rights, and turn our focus to supporting the institutions that already do.” — YES!

  12. Thumb up 1

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    I think this is the most troubling part: “What about the fact that firing a woman so she can be a stay at home mom is in line with the company’s core values?” How the fuck can that be a multi-billion dollar company’s policy? Like. How do you become successful on values BUILT on bigotry??

    #Murrka

  13. Thumb up 1

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    I’m gonna go ahead and guess Chick-Fil-A is from the east, cuz I’ve never heard of it… So I guess this whole time I’ve been boycotting against it

  14. Thumb up 1

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    I never eat there. Honestly the only thing we can do is boycott places like this. There’s a lot of room for there to be harassment in the workplace that never makes it into a lawsuit.

    At most, gay men and gay women are something like 15% of the population? But we also usually don’t have children which means we have disposable income. There’s a reason why gay PRIDE is often filled with companies kiosks. It’s just good business.

    We all have friends and family that are straight, otherwise, it would be considerably more difficult to get through life. These are the things that create change in the world= MONEY. Ask your friends and family to boycott these places. This is how we get rights.

    Chik-filet and Coors and prejudiced companies pour millions of dollars into making prejudiced legislature. We don’t. Let’s continue to reason with people and be all around awesome. Public opinion is different from what lobbyists want, and we need to make an effort in boycotting this crap.

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        Yeah, I bring up Coor’s for being one of the worst offenders from a class on marketing in college… I also think their policies had a lot to do with race.

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          Is the stuff with Coors still happening? I know they had some (deserved) bad press a couple decades ago, but I honestly have no idea about their current ongoings.

          Coors owns Blue Moon. …did not realize that until recently…otherwise I would not need to care.

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          Oh – just saw the ‘buying for workplace equality’ guide that L posted below ….super helpful btw

          FYI, this year everything under the MillerCoors umbrella scored a perfect 100.

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            Not to be a downer. In 1977 they offered gay people and minorities protection as employees, as a “basic good business practice.” They also went on to fund the heritage foundation supporting conservative causes. Just check out the wikepedia page.

            It’s a page taken out of the Volkswagen playbook. What once was a nazi car company, is now the creators of the beetle and the VW hippy van.

            Anyway, good PR for Coors. But maybe we all need to think a bit critically of what PR means for change.

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    I have been a supporter of gay rights and a firm believer that freedom religion means not forcing people to follow your faith. But researching the organizations chick fil a supports I am not finding what you people are talking about. I do find they are fighting organizations that are forcing pro gay educational agendas. I then find out what they say is true when I look at what they teach at our local school. Sorry folks when you try to force schools to teach my daughter that same sex intercourse is not only normal but healthy and good then you trample MY rights as a parent. That is where I draw the line. I can’t support you in that. So thank you chick fil a protesters for opening my eyes.

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    If you want more reasons not to eat at chick-fil-a, they are trying to shut down Vermont micro business/artist Eat More Kale for having a somewhat similar slogan (eat more kale vs. eat mor chikn). I had read about that and then this happened and now chick-fil-a is dicks dicks everywhere.

    Your paragraph about gender, sexism, and sexuality was perfection. I loved the way you explained something that i have believed for so long.

  17. Pingback: The Root of Homophobia | Mere Dogma

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