Originally published: July 30, 2012, 10:19 a.m.
Updated: July 30, 2012, 12:49 p.m.
CHARLOTTE — During an interview on local radio last Thursday, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx shied away from questions about recent controversies over fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A and anti-gay comments made by its company president.
Chick-fil-A has come under scrutiny for its donations to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations, some of which have been named hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Chick-Fil-A gave $1.7 million to such groups in 2009 and $1.9 million in 2010.
This month, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy further upset LGBT customers and activists when he told the Cary, N.C., Biblical Recorder his company was “guilty as charged” on its support of anti-gay causes.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said.
Speaking with “Charlotte Talks” host Mike Collins on WFAE 90.7 FM, Foxx declined sharing his personal thoughts on the issue. Though he reiterated his past public opposition to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, Foxx declined to elaborate on his opinions of the restaurant, its owner’s anti-gay comments or its funding of anti-gay hate groups.
A transcript of the exchange and a portion of the July 26 audio from WFAE:
Collins: Jim writes: Mr. Mayor, Any comments on the Chick-fil-A controversy? I see you’re a good friend of my mayor Tommie Menino as well as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. [They] are taking them to task and in fact telling them they are not welcome in those two cities and this is because of the owner of Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay marriage; it’s biblically-based.
Foxx: As you know I took a position in opposition to the proposed amendment in North Carolina. I was very public about that and I’ll leave it there. I don’t generally get enmeshed in these little kerfuffles that come up over private sector [inaudible].
Collins: It’s a pretty big deal, don’t you think that the mayor of Chicago is telling Chick-fil-A you’re not welcome in our city and he’s trying to keep them out?
Foxx: Yeah. I understand that. Different city.
qnotes reached out to Foxx’s press secretary on Friday and over the weekend for clarification on Thursday’s conversation. As of this story’s publication, the inquiry had yet to be returned.
Community members have voiced disappointment in Foxx’s reticence to address the company’s anti-gay stances. Leading conservative evangelists Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham, whose Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is based in Charlotte, have already spoken out in defense of the company. Nearly 40 Chick-fil-A restaurants are located in and around Charlotte.
Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay causes each year in 2009 and 2010. Groups receiving the funds are listed below.
– Marriage & Family Legacy Fund: $994,199
– Fellowship of Christian Athletes: $480,000
– National Christian Foundation: $240,000
– Focus on the Family: $12,500
– Eagle Forum: $5,000
– Exodus International: $1,000
– Family Research Council: $1,000
– Marriage & Family Foundation: $1,188,380
– Fellowship Of Christian Athletes: $480,000
– National Christian Foundation: $247,500
– New Mexico Christian Foundation: $54,000
– Exodus International: $1,000
– Family Research Council: $1,000
– Georgia Family Council: $2,500
LGBT community advocate Roberta Dunn, who has worked with Foxx and other local officials on a variety of inclusion projects, says Foxx could have been more open with his opinions on Chick-fil-A. She believes elected officials have a moral responsibility to speak out when corporations or other groups are doing harm to others.
“When these corporations, whether it is Chick-fil-A today or whoever it is tomorrow, do this, it is a form of a hate crime and bullying,” Dunn said. “I think the mayor might not be able to speak out against the business but he should have given his personal opinion on that — speaking out against people and being disrespectful of the LGBT community is a form of bullying.”
Dunn added, “Can they take away [Chick-fil-A’s] business licenses? Probably not. But first as a citizen of Charlotte and then as mayor, he could have said this is the wrong thing for companies to do.”
Like the Grahams, other Charlotte-area leaders have been supportive of Chick-fil-A. In email messages last week, Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James said progressives were applying a double-standard.
“These lawless Democrat mayors and city councilmembers have no problem with ‘leave town’ edicts when it is a company they don’t like but would be the first to object if conservatives applied the same standard to some company they love for their liberalism,” he wrote. “Imagine the uproar if the City Council rejected a new Bank of America branch over their support of the homosexual agenda. While individuals can boycott and object till the cows come home (‘eat mor chickn’), it is absurd to allow homosexuals and Democrats one standard while the rest of America is supposed to operate on a different one.”
Foxx has been supportive of several LGBT-inclusion efforts in Charlotte. He was the first sitting mayor of the city to address a public meeting of the LGBT community, to speak at a local Pride festival and to speak at the annual Human Rights Campaign Gala in Charlotte. Foxx has also supported policy changes protecting lesbian and gay workers and the extension of domestic partner benefits. The city recently included domestic partner benefits in their 2012-2013 budget, joining the county which voted to offer similar benefits in 2009.
qnotes has asked if Foxx will join President Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other high-profile Democrats in supporting full marriage equality rights for same-sex couples. Democratic National Committee Chair and Florida Congresswoman Debbbie Wasserman Schultz recently said she expects the party will add a marriage equality plank to its platform during the convention held in Charlotte in September.
Tobias Wolff, an openly gay 2012 Democratic National Convention Platform Committee member and former advisor and spokesperson for Obama’s 2008 campaign, says he also expects a marriage equality plank will be included in this year’s platform.
Over the weekend, members of the platform drafting committee unanimously approved language supporting marriage equality.
You can read qnotes‘ full interview with Wolff on that issue and more online tomorrow at qnotescarolinas.com.