Besides holding demonstrations outside Cracker Barrels, Queer Nation advocated boycotting the restaurants.

Boycotts, Robert learned then, are seldom effective when the issue is homosexuality. They usually give the religious right incentive to patronize the boycotted business and compensate for any loss of income.

The same was likely to happen with Chick-fil-A, even 22 years later with much broader support outside the gay community. Moreover, Robert believed Dan Cathy had every right to put his chicken empire behind “traditional marriage.”

He thought the effort to ban the restaurant’s expansion into some communities was over the top. But he also believed the absurdity and cruelty of Cathy’s language should be protested.

Soon, a surprising number of Food Porners came into the restaurant. Most had followed Robert’s suggestion. They toted red-and-white take-out boxes from Popeyes. Janet, Robert’s lesbian friend of many years, hurried up to him.

“Isn’t this likely to turn out the police?” she asked.

“Quite possibly…and hopefully the media, too. I sent emails to some reporters,” Robert said.

“I really don’t want to go to jail,” Janet said. “In fact, I don’t want to be interviewed on camera. My hair…”

“Well, aren’t you the chicken-shit lipstick lesbian,” Robert chided.

Soon, at least 30 Food Porners were sitting at tables around the restaurant. The protestors invited regular customers to take seats at their tables. Most declined but a few accepted.

The manager of the restaurant came out to the dining room. “Y’all cain’t be taking space up in here without buying something,” he said. “I don’t want to call the police.”

The crowd applauded and opened their boxes from Popeyes. Robert really did love the super-fattening fried chicken from there.

Suddenly, there was commotion. A television reporter was outside. Robert went outside.

The reporter was interviewing a mother toting a child. “What do you think about this?”

“Actually, I think it’s kind of funny,” the woman replied. “And ballsy.”

“So you’re not afraid that if gay people have full rights to marry, society will fall apart? Maybe your son might be seduced into the homosexual lifestyle, lose his faith in God, and marry a man himself?” the reporter asked. “Are you aware Barack Obama supports gay marriage?”

The customer hesitated a moment. “Are you a total idiot?” she asked the reporter and walked away.

“So,” the reporter said, turning to Robert, “I understand that you organized this protest. What in the world do you think this will gain?”

“I hope it will show people that when you make homophobic, judgmental statements, you are hurting people whose only agenda is to love with the same freedom straight people have.”

The reporter looked away, bored. “Thanks,” she mumbled. Her eyes lit up on seeing a man in overalls getting in a pickup with a “Jesus loves Romney” bumper sticker. Inside, the manager was pleading. “Please take your Popeyes somewhere else. You are trespassing.”

The Food Porn peeps were lined up now, ordering small soft drinks. 

A siren sounded. The police had arrived. “Ah, the good old days,” Robert said to Janet, who had spent the last five minutes in the restroom primping.

“Who’s in charge here?” the cop barked as he walked into the restaurant, waving at the manager.

Everyone turned toward Robert.

 


Food Porn is a fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal.

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