America has been alight with political furore after the President and CEO of a fried chicken fast food chain has spoken publicly about his opposition to gay marriage, stirring a hive of public backlash and media attention that’s inevitably stretched into the world of music.
The national restaurant chain Chick-fil-A (which Australian music fans might recognise for the lyrical reference in Ben Folds Five’s ‘Army’) is at the centre of the gay marriage debate that has erupted after its president, Dan Cathy, well-known for his conservative religious stance; claimed in a radio interview that his company backs “the biblical definition of the family unit.” In short, ‘no same-sex marriages thanks!’
Weighing in on the debate is the frontman for British metal icons Judas Priest, Rob Halford. The 60-year-old, openly gay singer was recently interviewed by heavy rock website, Noisecreep and took the opportunity to discuss the public outcry and protest over Chick-fil-A’s unpopular gay marriage stance.
Halford sees the the public debate as a microcosm for the same-sex marriage debate tied closely to the right of free speech.
“Before I get into this, I just want to say that I love America. I love the American Constitution and the First Amendment,” says the British-born, now Phoenix, Arizona-residing Halford. “If you really get into the heart and soul of this great country, it’s all about the constitution and the First Amendment and freedom of speech,” says the metal frontman.
Interestingly, Halford’s views are that “everybody in this country has the right to say what they think and feel and what best represents them,” including Chick-fil-A: “[They] have the absolute right to say and do what they want. It doesn’t matter that all of these people disagree with their opinion. The question was how would the people that agree with what that man said do to support the company and how would the ones against his anti-gay remarks protest.”
The Judas Priest singer’s stance is particularly fascinating given the stigma often surrounding the heavy metal community, a genre that – to the outsider- is often unnecessarily stigmatised as violent and anti-social. Much like the rap and hip-hop world’s response to Frank Ocean’s highly publicised ‘coming out’, Halford’s comments come from a genre typically associated with particularly masochistic (and occasionally homophobic) stereotypes.
While many who have opposed the fast food chain’s stance have boycotted the company, with large numbers of gay and lesbian couples posting pictures of themselves kissing outside Chick-fil-A restaurants in protest. While on the other side of the fence, supporters of the restaurant chain president’s religious stance have flocked in droves to support Chick-fil-A.
Halford’s thoughts on the matter? “I think it’s great. That’s our right here. What you’re seeing here are the elements of the American Constitution in all of their glory. It’s a wonderful thing to see happening and talk about and the fact that everyone is discussing the gay rights issue is great,” says Halford.
Halford stressed that while he was in support of same-sex marriage, he was equally in support of the American individual’s right to freedom of speech. “I don’t think that man (CEO Dan Cathy) thought too much about the business consequences of what he said,” added the Judas Priest vocalist, “but I think he was standing for what he believes in. I don’t agree with him at all, but God bless the man. It’s as simple as that.”
In related news, this year sees Judas Priest celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their album, Screaming For Vengeance, with a forthcoming special edition of the album. Re-mastered and packaged with bonus material and a live DVD concert from 1983, Screaming for Vengeance: Special 30th Anniversary Edition will be released September 4.