Many of you know that Chik-fil-A makes a lot of sandwiches and donates a lot of money to anti-gay organizations. However you might not be familiar with the badass LGBT activist who shed light on this company and their hateful activities in January of this year, long before the recent hubbub. Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you Hillary Dworkoski, dedicated gay-rights activist and college sophomore. Dworkoski is responsible for the change.org petition that raised awareness about CEO Dan Cathy and his backward opinions on love and basic human rights. Though she originally started the fight to get Chik-fil-A and their hate-sandwiches off NYU’s campus, she has since broadened the scope of her fight. We asked Hillary about her history with the fast-food giant.
Hillary, you were fighting against Chik-fil-A long before the rest of the country seemed aware of their donations to anti-gay organizations. How did you learn about the true nature of this company, and what inspired you to do something about it?
I read an article online about the donations that they made, and then heard about how NYU had already voted the semester before to keep Chik-fil-A on campus, because they wanted to protect freedom of speech. I knew that going through the system obviously hadn't worked then so I decided to start the petition on change.org. Chik-fil-A has been in the news more lately only because of the CEO's comments about gay marriage; I support his right to freedom of speech even though I obviously disagree with his views. The donations are what I really have a problem with and I just wanted to make that clear right away, because many people think [my opposition is] simply because of his statements.
At the time, you were a freshman at NYU, which is considered to be a pretty liberal school. What did it feel like to learn that not only was there this hate-mongering fast food restaurant nestled on campus, but that it was the only one in NY state?
I was shocked that NYU, of all places, would not only have Chik-fil-A on campus, but would also choose to keep it on campus even after learning of their donations. I went to NYU to be at one of the most tolerant schools in the country and I was disappointed to find that it really was more of a corporation that cares more about profits than student diversity and acceptance.
I read that you were involved with the Student Senators Council at NYU. Who are they, and what sort of issues do they normally work on? Were they receptive to your work with Chik-fil-A?
At NYU, the Student Senators Council is the first body to vote on anything. It's entirely made up of students representing each of the schools at NYU. If they vote and choose to make a change in the school, the vote will then go to the University Senate, which includes faculty, staff, and John Sexton (the president of NYU). The SSC is the body that voted last fall semester to not ban Chik-fil-A from campus. There was one Student Senator named Whitney Coulson who opposed the vote to keep Chik-fil-A. She later joined our efforts and helped us plan one of our protests. However, the rest of the senators were not receptive at all and felt that they had already dealt with the Chik-fil-A issue and it was over. I ran for Senator for my school at NYU but I lost the election.
What was the response like when you first started the Change.org petition? Were you surprised at the support, or did you feel like it wasn’t catching on fast enough, given the relevance of the topic?
The petition got off the ground really quickly after I started it. I actually got a lot more support than I thought I would, considering the popularity of Chik-fil-A. When the CEO announced his opposition of marriage equality, I got a few thousand more signatures.
Do you have any LGBT activism planned for the West coast?
I currently attend Loyola Marymount University in L.A. I have been interning at Equality California all summer. They have been working on getting the bill SB 1172 passed in California, which will prohibit anyone from performing gay "reparative therapy" tactics on anyone under the age of 18. I also recently held a protest at the Chik-fil-A in West Hollywood, although I do not plan on protesting again anytime soon, because I want to focus on getting involved at school and in the gay-straight alliance here.
If you could say anything to Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, what would it be?
If I could say anything to Dan Cathy, I would tell him that I was raised Christian. But not once in church or in my life was I ever taught that hate was the right choice. In fact, from what I know about Christianity, we should not judge others, and love is the ultimate virtue.
Image credits: gothamist.com, villagevoice.com, thefabfemme.com, crowell.typepad.com