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Businesses, Values, Discrimination and Ypsilanti by Beth Bashert

| October 15, 2016

beths-blog-photoIn 2002 at the Elvis Festival, paid petition circulators worked the crowd gathering signatures to change the city charter of Ypsilanti. The petitions sought to prohibit any legal protections for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi-sexual people in the city. That was the actual language  on the petitions. This was the first time we saw them, and they spent the next several weeks in our city getting signatures.

Tom Monaghan, then the owner of Dominoes Pizza, paid a little over $7000 of his personal money for those petitioners. Profits from pizza, founded in our town, were used to attempt to institutionalize discrimination. We could see this expense in the campaign filings submitted to the county, it is all on record.

What followed was months of stress, campaigning, legal and court hearings, $65K in campaign expense, and ultimate victory. Lisa Zuber and I were the campaign co-chairs, Stephanie White (now the Director of Equality Michigan) was our campaign manager. Over 400 volunteers worked on that campaign, knocking on doors and making phone calls.  We ultimately won by 63% to 37%, a literal landslide.

I get that Monaghan does not own or have a interest in Dominoes anymore. The company now has a policy of donating that is inclusive of LGBT organizations.  The world has changed and moved on. That is
great. Yet, I still remember sitting at the Ark at a show immediately following the campaign and hearing the director of a local LGBT organization announce a $1000 donation from Dominoes Pizza. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Sold out. And for such a low price. The disconnect between the battle we had just fought and the donation that they accepted was striking to me at the time.

I can’t eat their pizza. I don’t know if I ever will. It’s not stubbornness, really.  It just doesn’t feel right or good. It feels
dirty. The night of the Supreme Court ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land, Dominoes sent 100 pizzas to the celebration in Braun Court. I was there and didn’t eat it. Nor did I rain on anyone’s parade about it either. I’m not a jerk.

Why am I sharing this story? Because Eastern Michigan University is about to add a Chick Fil-A to the campus. This will be the first Chick Fil-A in our county, and I am angry.

For those of you who don’t know, Chick Fil-A has a history that includes millions of dollars in donations to organizations that are considered anti-LGBT hate groups, as well as statements from Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick Fil-A, denouncing the pro-gay marriage SCOTUS ruling. Mike Huckabee organized a support-your-local Chick Fil-A effort during the uproar following these statements. There is so much more, here:

To their credit, EMU is doing their due diligence by including the LGBT leaders in the process, making sure that this store will have HR policies that are in compliance with EMU standards, etc.

There is evidence that Chick Fil-A has changed. It is hard to tell, but it seems that they may be giving donations to a broader network of organizations. They may have stopped or greatly reduced their giving to anti-LGBT hate groups. Cathy has issued statements that he regrets’ his anti gay marriage statements of the past. It’s all a little vague and not enough for my taste.

I am extremely unhappy that Ypsilanti, our little city that has made LGBT history, is going to be the first host of this business in the county. I have talked with people at EMU about this, and gotten basically the same information that is on the Wikipedia page I just shared with you: Chick Fil-A has changed, there is evidence, their HR
policies are inclusive, etc. They are telling me the truth, I know it.
And yet…

I don’t want a Chick Fil-A in my town. I am going to have to live with it and believe me there are worse things I have had to endure than a store that has a history I dislike. I have had to endure the discrimination that their dollars have helped pay for.

By Beth Bashert

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Category: Featured Column

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