Chick-fil-A and the History of Queer Boycotts

August, 2012 · By Justin Bengry

Recent furor over Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s funding of organizations explicitly opposed to same-sex marriage has made consumers across the political and social spectrum evaluate how their spending habits are in fact political decisions.

Opponents of marriage equality and some free market supporters have asked what gay men and lesbians hope to achieve by calling for boycotts against Chick-fil-A. Many see economic action against Cathy and Chick-fil-A as anti-Capitalist, even un-American, arguing incorrectly that it violates his freedom of speech. The history of queer economic activism, however, demonstrates just what is at stake, and what boycotting can achieve.

Even before the modern homosexual rights movement gained momentum in the 1970s, gay men and lesbians recognized the relationship between economic forces and human rights. Already in 1963, in response to UK tabloid press sensationalism that vilified homosexuals, author Douglas Plummer called on gay men and lesbians to boycott publications that demonized them. “If homosexuals stopped buying those particular newspapers,” he foresaw, “some circulations would drop by many hundreds of thousands of copies.” Plummer recognized the economic clout that homosexuals might have, but before a larger coordinated community existed, his call for economic action went unanswered.

Following the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, in which gay men and lesbians stood against police raids and harassment in New York, a greater community began to form. This wider community soon saw economic action as a strategic tool against state and legal oppression. Just five years after Stonewall the Los Angeles Police Department responded to the threat of a boycott against Hollywood businesses by revising its policies toward gay Angelenos.

And in 1977 the most fam