By Sean Barron
The fact that many gay and transgender people still suffer discrimination and persecution for who they are is something David Barnes, Bonnie Humphrey, Carrie Gray and Alex Barnes find hard to swallow.
So after the chief executive officer of a national restaurant chain recently expressed opposition to gay marriages and unions, they expressed their opposition to his views.
“You don’t have to be gay to support the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community,” said David Barnes of Cortland, referring to his participation in Saturday’s demonstration near Chick-fil-A, 1051 Boardman-Poland Road. “I’m straight.”
The four took part in a three-hour protest near the eatery to denounce and call others’ attention to the position of Dan T. Cathy, the Atlanta-based fast-food chicken chain’s CEO, who has come under fire from some groups for remarks he made opposing such marriages and unions.
Several people staged a similar protest at the location Wednesday.
Carrying a sign that read “Chock-ful-a-Hate,” Barnes contended that Cathy “went beyond stating his beliefs” by giving money to groups that support homophobic views, including an organization deemed a hate group by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
Barnes said that gay people should have the same rights as their straight counterparts.
“We should see fellow men and women as equals, regardless of how they were born or the lifestyles they choose,” he added.
Compounding such discrimination is that it’s legal in many states to fire people for being gay, noted Humphrey of New Castle, Pa., an advocate chairwoman of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ Pittsburgh chapter.
In addition, a recent article on the Huffington Post, a progressive and liberal news website, contends some gay Chick-fil-A employees have to hide their sexual orientation for fear of losing their jobs, added Humphrey, who also is a member of PFLAG’s Butler, Pa., chapter and hopes to start a chapter in Lawrence County, Pa.
Humphrey added that she feels “disheartened” that the controversy has brought more business to the chicken chain. During Saturday’s protest, however, most motorists honked their horns and gave the group a thumbs-up and other signs of support, Humphrey continued.
Holding a sign that read “Eat More Equality,” a parody of Chick-fil-A’s slogan, “Eat More Chikin,” Alex Barnes, 18, said one of his best friends is gay and has been the recipient of rude and derogatory remarks.
“Being gay is perfectly natural,” said Barnes, a senior at Ohio Virtual Academy, an online school. “[Cathy and others are] acting as if it’s a crime.”
Barnes said he feels that ignorance and fear are behind many people’s inability to accept LGBT people.
Gray, of Boardman, said she attended the protest because she has several friends who are gay, including some who want to get married. For Gray, who’s straight, the protest was to stress the importance of equal rights for everyone, without regard to sexual orientation.
“They’re in a cage and can’t do all of the things straight people can do,” she added.