June 25, 2018
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Chick-fil-A, lobster and gay marriage

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

I’m not sure whether Harlan Gardner is the president or CEO of anything at all, but I would put him up against Chick-fil-A’s president and CEO, Dan Cathy, any day.

I have never indulged in a Chick-fil-A sandwich, nuggets or strips.

Until last month I had never heard of the Atlanta-based fast food chain, which apparently specializes in “chikin’.”

The company supposedly has an adorable ad in which a herd of cows comically encourage people to “eat mo’ chikin’.”

That cute ad and a mess of some delicious, deep-fried chicken might have been the first thing to come to mind when people mentioned Chick-fil-A – until, of course, Cathy announced out loud last month that he was a believer in “traditional marriage’’ and talked of God’s wrath being unleashed upon our country should the gays get to marryin’ one another.

Well now, the gays aren’t eatin’ any chikin’ and Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee and some tea party folks in Knox County are loadin’ up their plates.

So while all of this talk of chikin’ has been going on around the country and the gay-rights supporters have been protesting in front of Chick-fil-A restaurants and mayors in Boston and Chicago have got the idea that forcing Chik-fil-A franchises out of their cities is the proper approach, we up here in Maine have been watching a quiet but powerful ad that actually says something about family values and marriage equality.

That’s where Harlan Gardner comes in.

If the anti-gay marriage folks thought they got a nice boost from Cathy, his “chikin’” and his wrath of God speech, they should meet Harlan, the latest, unlikely frontman for the Why Marriage Matters Maine campaign.

Harlan, with his white hair and beard and his voice just a bit shaky with age, is wearing a nice red, collared shirt and suspenders at his dinner table at his home in Machias when he takes to talking about marriage equality.

He’s surrounded by four generations of his family. Dottie, his wife of 59 years, is seated by his side.

“Dottie and I have been together for 59 years now. I flew in the last battle of World War II. I can’t see how anyone who had been in combat could be cruel to anyone ever again. It takes a great deal of bravery to be a lesbian. I’m some proud of Katie and Alex. … Marriage is too precious a thing not to share.”

No wrath of God warnings. No calls to protest in front of fast-food restaurants, no threats to boycott, no promises to make illegal zoning ordinances to ban companies that don’t support gay marriage.

“It’s not about politics. It’s about family and how we as people treat one another,” Harlan gently reminds us.

If you don’t watch TV and if you have not seen it, you can at whymarriagemattersmaine.com.

So Cathy’s speech got people all over the country talking about “chikin’” and introduced me to a franchise I had never heard of before.

I’m wondering whether the Maine Lobster Council might want to hire on Harlan to say a few things in support of gay marriage and lobster.

I mean, we’re in a bit of a lobster crisis right now.

Adding Harlan’s voice to the matter could get gays all over the country eating loads of lobsters and it could bring bunches of anti-gay-marriage activists up here to protest in front of lobster pounds from Kittery to Stonington to Lubec.

And I’d guess that more than a few of those protesters might just sit down and tuck into a $5 lobster or two weren’t no one lookin’.

If done just right, we might get this marriage equality measure passed and get our beloved lobster fishermen through the winter.

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