Rainbow Alliance, Sodexo comment on campus Chick-fil-A

By Andrew Shull

Tricia Dougherty hasn’t eaten at Chick-fil-A in about two years.

The president of…Tricia Dougherty hasn’t eaten at Chick-fil-A in about two years.

The president of Pitt’s Rainbow Alliance, an LGBTQ advocacy group on campus, has cut the restaurant out of her campus dining options ever since she heard the fast-food chain was donating money to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage.

The controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A experienced a spike in public awareness recently after the Biblical Recorder, a weekly Baptist newspaper based in North Carolina, asked restaurant CEO Dan Cathy if he opposed same-sex marriage. He responded in the July 16 interview that he was “guilty as charged.”

His declaration opened up an outpouring of objections and support around the country. The controversy hits close to home, as Pitt’s campus includes a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning.

In an email, University spokesman John Harvith deferred comment on Pitt’s stance on the issue,  instead providing statements from Chick-fil-A and Sodexo, the corporation that oversees Pitt’s campus dining.

The statement from Sodexo didn’t directly comment on same-sex marriage, but it advised customers to vote with their money.

“While we provide a variety of options, ultimately our customers decide for themselves which businesses they wish to support with their Dining Dollars,” the statement said.

The statements from both Sodexo and Chick-fil-A maintained that the organizations respect diversity and do not discriminate when it comes to their clients.

And while Chick-fil-A reaffirmed its commitment to “biblically-based principles,” which include charitable donations and closing on Sundays, it chose to eschew further commentary on the hot-button issue.

“Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” Chick-fil-A’s statement said.

For Dougherty, Cathy’s comments didn’t come as a surprise. The Rainbow Alliance’s opposition to Chick-fil-A is nothing new.

Dougherty said that two years ago the group organized a boycott of Chick-fil-A because the company donated money to organizations that opposed marriage equality.

However, she said the continued presence of the restaurant on campus wouldn’t be a priority for her organization, regardless of the recent controversy.

Dougherty said she would bring the issue before the board of the Rainbow Alliance to ask members if any wanted to tackle the issue, most likely through attempts to inform the student body about Chick-fil-A’s stance.

“When we did the first protest, people had no idea,” Dougherty said.

While she did characterize Chick-fil-A as a “hateful organization” and described its presence on campus “unfortunate,” Dougherty didn’t go as far as to say that members of the Pitt community should boycott the restaurant.

“I won’t say that anyone should or shouldn’t eat there,” she said.

The controversy has garnered nationwide attention. The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, and the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, both democrats, voiced their opposition to Chick-fil-A restaurants within their cities’ limits, although neither found means of enforcing the sentiment.

Other prominent public figures, including former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and pastor Billy Graham, came out in support of the restaurant.

For Dougherty, helping consumers know what types of organizations their money supports remains the most important thing.

“[Chick-fil-A] can say anything they want and do what they want,” she said, “but it’s important that people know where their money is going.”