FOX News host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee organized a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on Wednesday, August 1 after the company received heat for their support of anti-gay organizations as well as president Dan Cathy's remarks about marriage equality. Melissa Reeves, who plays Jennifer in DAYS OF OUR LIVES, tweeted a message that day which read as follows:
Chick-fil-A today!!!! Loved every bite of it;)!! Land of the free and home of the brave. Love that we all appreciate free speech, right?"
Soap fans and non-soap fans alike tweeted immediate and strong reactions ranging from unconditional support for Reeves to being completely dumbfounded and even disgusted. I personally fell into the surprised and confused category. In a January 2011 interview with We Love Soaps, Mrs. Reeves shared her thoughts on speaking out against things that are unjust:
I think we’re so afraid of not being liked that we don’t speak out for what’s important. Now I don’t want to just be a blowhole because that is ugly. But when I think something is not right, I definitely want to speak out about it. You have to. That’s how we love and protect people.
In the past decade, Reeves has spoken often about her strong religious beliefs but based on our interviews and everything I knew about her, she came across as compassionate and accepting of others. And it just seemed like an odd time to speak up for this particular cause since DAYS OF OUR LIVES won a GLAAD Award this Spring for its gay storyline. From a public relations standpoint, if nothing else, why take a stand on this particular issue and invite negativity on to her and her show? So I wondered to myself if she really believed the heart of the controversy was Dan Cathy's freedom of speech (and nothing more). No one ever questioned Dan Cathy's First Amendment rights, but perhaps she did not understand why the company, its funding of hate groups and Mr. Cathy's comments upset so many people.
I tweeted Reeves from our @WeLoveSoapsTV Twitter account to share my thoughts and to try to understand hers. Instead of responding and engaging in a conversation, she blocked @WeLoveSoapsTV.
She did the same to other people with an opposing view including THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS Emmy-winning actor, Greg Rikaart, who plays Kevin on the show. Rikaart expanded on his thoughts in a wonderful essay for the Huffington Post on Friday. Here's an excerpt:
The media blitz surrounding Chick-fil-A isn't about chicken sandwiches or Dan Cathy's First Amendment right to speak his mind. Mr. Cathy's company has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which publicly denounces the "impure lifestyle" of the LGBT community.
Furthermore, this company donated money to the Family Research Council, which supports the criminalization of homosexuality and states on their website that they oppose efforts for homosexuals to have equal rights. Can you even imagine -- your neighbor, your friend, your sibling or your child being criminalized for being who they are?
I posted a tweet airing my disappointment in Melissa Reeves (another member of the daytime community) for aligning herself with this company that financially supports the furthering of hatred and bigotry. I did so because I have aligned myself with organizations like GLSEN (the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) and the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) and I have read too many stories of alienated LGBT kids taking their lives after relentless persecution.
Whether grown up bullies like Dan Cathy and Melissa Reeves realize it or not, they are directly or indirectly telling these vulnerable kids that there is something wrong with them, or they are somehow less than. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm certain of it.
I'd happily talk to Mrs. Reeves about this myself, but alas, she has not responded to me and has blocked me from having access to her twitter account. I have happily engaged in debates with people who have reached out to me in defense of her and/or their own beliefs. People often say "agree to disagree." I think that's a cop-out.
Like Mr. Rikaart, I would love to speak with Mrs. Reeves about this subject. That's what I was trying to do on Twitter that day. While the intentions of some people may have come from a good place, if you read "Chick-fil-A" tweets on August 1 you saw large percentage of homophobic and hateful remarks. It was enlightening and somewhat discouraging to read some of these comments, but also gave me even greater appreciation for my own life. As a gay man living in New York City, I can legally be married to the love of my life. In fact, that exact thing is happening on August 18! Why people like Don Cathy think marriages like mine will somehow harm him is something I will never understand. But more and more people have come to understand that it won't impact them at all.
In responding to supporters and critics alike, Mr. Rikaart set an example for other celebrities by engaging in a respectful and honest dialog to use it as a teaching moment. I don't have lofty expectations of famous people, expecting them to use their status for good in the world. But it's a wonderful thing when they do. Thank you, Mr. Rikaart.