Residents not happy about Chick-fil-A’s sponsorship of Lacey’s Children’s Day

rboone@theolympian.com/Rolf Boone

Residents dismayed over a Lacey Children’s Day sponsor brought their concerns to the North Thurston Public Schools board Tuesday.

The city’s Children’s Day was held Saturday, Oct. 1 at Huntamer Park in Lacey and one of the key sponsors was Chick-fil-A, the popular but controversial fast-food chicken restaurant.

The business operates a store in Lacey and has been exploring a site in Olympia. It is viewed as controversial because in 2012 company Chairman Dan Cathy spoke out against same-sex marriage.

Although North Thurston is not involved in selecting sponsors or vetting other partners for the event, the district is a community partner in Children’s Day.

“North Thurston Public Schools has participated in the city of Lacey’s Children’s Day for many years as one way we give back to our community,” district spokeswoman Amy Blondin said. “We provide fun and engaging activities for children, and information and resources for families. We were able to connect with hundreds of families on Saturday.”

Still, the association with Chick-fil-A was “beyond the pale,” said Lynn Grotsky, co-founder of Pizza Klatch, an organization that got its start in North Thurston and offers a safe space for youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

She called on the school board to ask questions for the future, and to “really look at how they (the city) come up with sponsors.”

Grotsky, a Lacey resident, said she learned of the event and the sponsorship when she received event information in her utility bill. She said she immediately reached out to friends to see if they were upset as she was.

Dana McCormick, of PFLAG-Olympia, an organization “committed to the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons,” also attended the Tuesday school board meeting.

The LGBTQ community is so tuned-in to Chick-fil-A controversies that to see them as a sponsor “makes you feel unwanted,” she said.

Gabi Clayton of Olympia shared a story about her younger son, Bill, with the school board.

When Bill turned 14 he came to out to his parents as bisexual, she said. By the time he was 17, he was “out and proud,” but in 1995 he suffered through a “gay bashing” and later took his own life in 1995, “despite the love and support of his family and community,” she said.

She asked the board to not only think of her son, but of all the children in the district who might be LGBTQ and the impact Chick-fil-A could have on them.

“Please remember not to be involved in anything that will support that kind of hatred because you could be saving children’s lives,” she said.