A celebration of diversity.
Local members of the LGBT community are questioning an Iowa City festival’s partnership with Chick-fil-A, the restaurant chain that drew national protests in 2012 after its CEO spoke out against gay marriage.
Chick-fil-A is among the nearly dozen corporate sponsors for Iowa Soul Festival, an Iowa City Summer of the Arts event that runs Friday and Saturday on the Pentacrest and Clinton Street. The restaurant, through a donation from its Coralville location, is sponsoring Soul Fest’s culinary row.
Janelle Rettig, a Johnson County Supervisor who has been in a same-sex marriage for nearly 26 years, said Chick-fil-A’s sponsorship makes her question whether LGBT people — those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender — are welcome at Soul Fest.
“When they’re a sponsor in a city that prides itself in celebrating diversity, I think we do have to question that,” Rettig said Tuesday. “It’s eyebrow raising, and it makes me wonder if I should even go to Soul Fest because I’m uncomfortable with it.”[...]
Lisa Barnes, executive director of Summer of the Arts, said her organization anticipated that the Chick-fil-A sponsorship might result in negative feedback, and she said the organization welcomes the open discussion.
“Because we are a nonprofit, and because we are supported by the generosity of businesses in our community, as well as individuals, we’re not taking a side with anything,” Barnes said. “We’re saying we need support in order to be able to provide these events, and they are a willing partner that’s trying to portray a positive image, just like every other sponsor we have.”[...]
“Summer of the Arts is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ community. We have collaborated and partnered with Iowa City Pride Festival for multiple years, as well as actively look for ways to include LGBTQ musicians, artists, vendors, movies etc. in our programming each year. This will not change.
“Festival goers may choose which sponsors and vendors to patronize or visit while attending an event as there are many options available. The purpose of the Iowa Soul Festival is to celebrate and increase awareness of diversity and the positive impact it has on our community. Again, this is a welcoming and open event for all. It would be unfortunate for someone to not attend the festival or participate in all that it has to offer.”