Chick-fil-A sponsoring Pittsburgh kids’ run. But officials, in LGBT solidarity, want deal shot down.

Chick-fil-A sponsoring Pittsburgh kids’ run. But officials, in LGBT solidarity, want deal shot down.
Chick-fil-A is sponsoring a Pittsburgh kids' run in May. But city council and school board members, in LGBT solidarity, want the deal shot down. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Once word got out last month that Chick-fil-A was the title sponsor for next year’s Kids Marathon in Pittsburgh — a mile race that comes the day before the Pittsburgh Marathon — some folks got upset.

The Post-Gazette reported that all nine city council members signed a letter asking the marathon to trash the deal — one that puts the fast-food franchise’s name on the kids’ race, WESA-FM said.

The runners take off after the start of the 2017 Pittsburgh kids’ marathon. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Pittsburgh Public Schools traditionally puts together teams for the kids’ run, the station said. But that won’t be happening next May if the school board’s resolution — which bans district employees and schools from participating in “an official capacity” in the kids’ race — passes this week, the paper reported.

Why all the fuss?

Opposition to the Chick-fil-A sponsorship is due to the statements the founder’s son has made in support of traditional marriage, which has long irked LGBT and gay-rights advocates.

“They have several beliefs, which they’ve expressed officially, largely through religious basis, that are quite discriminatory and are quite inconsistent with the district’s policies regarding discrimination on the basis of gender, race, etc.,” Ira Weiss, the school solicitor, told the Post-Gazette.

Eduardo Cisneros (left) and Luke Montgomery kiss amid support in front of a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Hollywood on Aug. 3, 2012. Gays and lesbians puckered up in protest Friday, staging ‘kiss-ins’ outside Chick-fil-A outlets across the United States over the fast food chain’s opposition to same-sex marriage. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

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In 2016, the board unanimously approved a Transgender and Gender Expansive Students policy that allows students to use pronouns, names and bathrooms they identify with. Students’ gender identity and expression are also protected under Title 9.

School board members Lynda Wrenn, Moira Kaleida, and Terry Kennedy brought the Chick-fil-A issue to Weiss and administrators after hearing from concerned constituents, the solicitor told the paper.

An online petition urges an end to the Chick-fil-A sponsorship, calling the popular restaurant chain “openly homophobic and transphobic,” and has attracted just more than 1,200 signatures as of Monday morning.

Chick-fil-A headquarters did not immediately comment to the Post-Gazette, which noted that the franchise has said it doesn’t have a political or social agenda and focuses on service and hospitality “for all.”

What else are officials saying?

City council member Erika Strassburger said the Chick-fil-A name “would be perceived to espouse bigotry and hate,” the Post-Gazette reported, and added that “this is really about the children and about sending the message to the children of Pittsburgh, and really to everyone, that Pittsburgh, as far as city council is concerned, is welcoming and inclusive for everyone.”

School board member Terry Kennedy told WESA she signed the petition and wants kids to feel safe. “They need to feel welcomed, they need to feel inclusive,” she said. “I’m hoping that the children’s marathon actually listens to everybody who has signed this petition.”

But Kevin Carter, another school board member, told the station he’s concerned the resolution is a slippery slope. “I’ll be interested to see how this is worded in regards to our participation with corporations that share different political ideologies than we do,”  he said.

The school board office told TheBlaze that the vote on the resolution will take place Wednesday.

This writer’s perspective

Part of the school board’s resolution reads, “Nothing in this resolution is intended to interfere with an individual employee’s right or the rights of students and their families to participate in these programs and races on an individual basis unrelated to the District or the District schools,” WESA reported.

It’s all well and good that the resolution frees up individual participation — as if it ever could restrict it. But given the media attention to this issue, one wonders how comfortable any district employee or any student in the district — particularly any family of any student — would be taking part in the kids’ race given such an “openly homophobic and transphobic” organization as Chick-fil-A is at the center of it.