There are many ways to protest in societies in which citizens have the rights to do so. In the turbulent 1960s in America, many groups staged “sit-ins” to protest things like the Vietnam War, equal rights and other issues.
In 2011, The Occupy movement staged another version of such opposition by camping out in parks and government buildings.
In the wake of Atlanta-based fast food chain Chick-Fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy’s statements in opposition to gay marriage last week, political activist Carly McGehee decided to stage a newer, more amorous kind of protest.
It’s called “National Same Sex Kiss Day,” and the event encourages same sex couples to go to a Chick-Fil-A restaurant this Friday night at 8 p.m. and kiss.
Cathy’s statements set off a firestorm of controversy with opposing groups threatening boycotts and events in support of Chick-Fil-A.
The Mayors of Chicago and Boston made public statements that the popular chicken fast food restaurants were not welcome in their respective cities. Republican politicos like former Arkansas Gov. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have jumped into the fray in support of Chick-Fil-A.
“We’re calling on, not only same-sex couples, but couples all around the country to show up at their local Chik-fil-a restaurant and have a smooch with their same-sex partner, their friend, their boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, to show our — sarcastically — thanks for their continued support of love, equality and the “real” definition of family,” McGehee said.
With a flurry of criticism — as well as support — it’s impossible to ignore possible safety risks. Same-sex marriage and LGBT rights issues create passionate responses from people on both sides of the issue, so what is Wednesday’s controversial lip-lock results in something much darker?
McGehee said she isn’t concerned.
“This is a time for us to go and kiss someone. This isn’t a protest or a way to distribute hate from either side,” she said. “We’re going with a peaceful mindset and we hope our opposition maintains that peaceful mindset as well.”
Deputy press secretary for Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group in DC, Charlie Joughin said he and the Human Rights Campaign support the efforts of young activists like McGehee.
“Anything that we can do, that our community and supporters can do, to raise awareness of Chik-fil-a’s anti-gay statements and contributions is terrific,” he said. “This is a company that’s given...millions of dollars to anti-gay causes and I think that consumers and Americans should be aware of where they’re spending their money if they do decide to frequent Chik-fil-a.”
Joughin later quipped, “We applaud anybody who is truly able to make a difference, one kiss at a time.”
National Same Sex Kiss Day is on one hand about conscious consumerism, but it’s much deeper than marriage equality — it’s life equality.
“Outside marriage equality, [it’s about] things like workplace equality -- in 29 states you can be fired for being gay and in 34 states for being transgender — so this is not just the issue of marriage,” Joughin said. “The organizations that Chik-fil-a is giving money to … are really actively seeking to make life miserable for LGBT people.”
He added that he doesn’t think Americans “put up with discrimination” and, according to Joughin, 53 percent of Americans have voiced support of same-sex marriage in recent polls.
Same-sex marriage has been a controversial and deeply personal issue for many, especially in California when in 2008, Proposition 8 was passed by a small percentage of difference. But while legislation continues to make rounds in political offices and courts, there are people like McGehee who have chosen to take an alternative route to facilitate change.
“We’re voting with our feet, we’re voting with our money,” she said. “Corporations like Chik-fil-a need to know the LGBT community is here to stay and we are a force to be reckoned with and we want our equality.”
But what happens after 8 o’clock Wednesday? After couples fill Chik-fil-a booths and share a kiss, where does McGehee take National Same Sex Kiss Day?
“I define myself as a political activists...so for me this fight is never over until I can marry the woman I love in all 50 states. Until I don’t have to worry about being fired in 29 states, until I have the same protections to live my life and have a family as every other person in this country. Although this may be one battle, the war’s not over yet and I’m gonna keep fighting.”
How has a fast food chain become another front in the gay rights culture war? What will the ‘kiss in’ accomplish?
Carly McGehee, political activist and creator of the National Same Sex Kiss Day event planned at Chick-Fil-A restaurants for Friday
Charlie Joughin, deputy press secretary for Human Rights Campaign, a Washington D.C.-based organization that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights on a national level