The launch of Chick-fil-A's first international location in Toronto was met by protests from local activists due to the brand's history of anti-LGBTQ+ actions.
On Friday, activists picketed with signs reading "Cluck Off" and "Chick-fil-A is Full-A Homophobia." In videos recorded of the protests, picketers can be heard shouting: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia's got to go,".
Critics argue the restaurant's history of donating to groups opposed to equality clash with Toronto's culture of inclusivity, regarded as one of the world's most LGBTQ+ friendly cities. Justin Khan, director of public interest and legal issues at the LGBTQ+ advocacy group 519, says a Chick-fil-A opening in Toronto would be "really problematic."
"Given that we know the company promotes hate," he tells Washington Post. It's just unacceptable."
\u201cPeople are protesting outside the opening of #Toronto's first Chick-fil-A location - \ud83d\udcf9 @RonaldJayQ\u201d
\u201cTo our communities and allies who came down today to support our fight against hate and discrimination, thank you. Scenes from this morning's protest. Let's keep the good fight going.\nMore pictures on our Facebook page: https://t.co/KuLI9oSzWT\n#LGBTQ2S #ArmyOfLovers #CluckOff\u201d
Chick-fil-A and its CEO, Dan Cathy, have been criticized for making regular donations to charities known for discriminating against LGBTQ+ people, including Focus on the Family, National Organization for Marriage, and Salvation Army. Equality Matters obtained tax records showing the Cathy family donated nearly $2 million to anti-LGBTQ+ gay groups in 2010.
The company vowed to stop donating to anti-gay organizations following threats of a nationwide boycott, but according to ThinkProgress, it still has continued to do so.
In 2015, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave $1 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a religious group which "seeks to utilize athletes and coaches to spread Christian teachings." As the LGBTQ+ sports website OutSports previously reported, the organization regards "homosexuality, bisexuality and being transgender as sinful and [has] encouraged college athletes to resist homosexual feelings within themselves and their teammates."
Cathy, meanwhile, has repeatedly denigrated the LGBTQ+ community. In 2012, he stated that he believes in the "biblical definition of the family unit," that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
After those comments sparked national outrage, Cathy attempted to clarify his point in a radio interview, "As it relates to society in general," he said, "I think we are inviting God's judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you do as to what constitutes marriage."
In 2013, Cathy criticized two Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, after SCOTUS overturned California's Prop. 8 and ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. "Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies," Cathy said on Twitter. The post was later deleted.
\u201cDie-in at the Toronto opening of Chick-fil-A.\n\nAnd reminder that the company is anti-LGBTQ.\n\n\u201d
— Read Jackson Rising by @CooperationJXN (@Read Jackson Rising by @CooperationJXN)
Wilson Yang, operator of the Chick-fil-A in Toronto, claims in a statement that everyone is welcome at the restaurant.
"We respect people's right to share their opinions," he told the Washington Post in an email. "Our focus is on offering a welcoming and respectful environment for our guests and team members, and we encourage people to give us a try."