Cracker Barrel Gets A Taste Of Conservative Ire Over Pride Month Support

A post from casual-dining chain Cracker Barrel has sparked ire from conservative commentators. The reason? A picture of a rainbow-colored rocking chair. The picture, posted on June 8, 2023, to the company's Facebook page, expressed support for the LGBTQ+ community. "We are excited to celebrate Pride Month with our employees and guests," reads the post. "Everyone is always welcome at our table."

Television host Lauren Chen called for conservatives to boycott the chain, posting, "Thankfully, this makes it even easier than ever to skip this mid restaurant whenever someone recommends it. Everyone else should do their part and skip dining at the Cracker Barrel, too." Texas Family Project, a conservative political group, added, "A once family friendly establishment has caved to the mob."

However, many commenters and queer fans have voiced their support for the company. "This may be rainbow washing, but as a southern queer person that grew up deeply loving those pancakes and baked apples ... I appreciate y'all saying it," reads a comment under the restaurant's Instagram post.

While the backlash is recent, the rainbow rockers aren't new: Cracker Barrel has supported the LGBTQ+ community for several years. In 2018, the company began releasing limited-edition pride-themed rocking chairs to fundraise for LGBTQ+ organizations. The chairs proved to be hot commodities: at auction, the limited-edition rainbow rockers sold for $600, while Cracker Barrel's standard rocking chairs net around $160. However, the chain has a controversial history with the LGBTQ+ community.

Cracker Barrel hasn't always supported the LGBTQ+ community

In 1991, the company publicly stated that it would no longer retain employees "whose sexual preference fails to demonstrate normal heterosexual values which have been the foundation of families in our society," The New York Times reported. At least nine employees were fired. Even at the time, such explicit discrimination was unusual. The decision was widely condemned, with swift backlash from gay rights groups. In response, the chain reversed its stance, claiming that the policy was "a well-intentioned over-reaction to the perceived values of our customers and their comfort levels with these individuals."

In 2002, over a decade later, the company scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. The index, which rates companies based on the way that they treat LGBTQ+ employees, cited the company's lack of clear-cut anti-discrimination policies. Only two other companies out of the 100 surveyed received such a low score.

The company's board finally voted to implement an anti-discrimination policy the same year. In 2009, Cracker Barrel launched an Employee Resource Group for LGBTQ+ employees, which helped the chain's Corporate Equality Index rise to 55 in 2011. Their score has continued to rise ever since and currently rests at 80. While the company may have room for improvement, the hard work of LGBTQ+ activists over the decades has helped bring it a long way.