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Cookeville, Tennessee isn’t known for being overly supportive for the LGBT community, which may be part of what drove one LGBT supporter to tag a local Chick-Fil-A store with the message, “GOD (Loves) Fags & Chicken.” It was spray-painted on the side of their restaurant a few days ago. It’s not the first time this has happened, either.

During the “Bigot Chicken” flap a few months back, we saw a couple of the chain’s stores similarly tagged. One store in San Antonio, TX was artfully painted with the message, “Tastes like Hate” in writing that’s similar to the company’s “Eat Mor Chikin” slogan, where cows hold the sign that they supposedly created.

I can’t stress this enough: this does absolutely nothing to help support our message for full equality for all LGBT people. This isn’t fighting fire with fire. It’s adding to a food fight of stupidity, bigotry, and ignorance with more of the same. I join with my dear friends at the Tennessee Equality Project in completely denouncing this behavior. I don’t support it. I never have, and I never will. WKRN reports:

The Tennessee Equality Project promotes equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Tennessee.

Executive Director Chris Sanders said no one affiliated with the TEP was involved in the vandalism and the TEP condemns it.

“It concerns us because our community has been the victim of that kind of violence and continues to be,” he said. “What if during this act of vandalism someone was shutting down the Chick-fil-A or the cleaning crew was leaving and there had been a violent confrontation?”

I completely agree with Sanders. My message has always been to take the high road. Do what’s right. Even when it’s damned near impossible. Those of us in the LGBT community will never, ever win by hitting below the belt. We have to do it with intelligence, good humor, passion, and a clear drive to be the better person.

In this struggle for equality, we fight a sea tide of ignorant “Adam and Steve” statements, bigoted laws, religious impersonation, and bloviating hatred from TV and radio personalities who are hell-bent on keeping the LGBT community under the thumb of their own small-minded worldview.

The only thing that happens when we respond with our own damaging, sometimes hateful words — especially when in the form of graffiti or other vandalism, is that we add fresh fuel to an already raging inferno of bigotry.

The Cookeville tagging could have very well been a disgruntled former employee, or someone who just wanted to snigger at their own accomplishment. It could have been completely innocuous stupid fun (if they were that much of a sociopath, that is). Frankly, it doesn’t matter.

It was wrong, purely, and simply. Whoever did this act of vandalism should pay for the damage and be forced to wear the Chick-Fil-A cow costume and wave at passersby for a couple of days. Let them see the faces of those who aren’t interested in any anti-gay message, but just want to enjoy a salty, tasty, deep-fried chicken sandwich.

As for the rest of us, let’s be clear in our message. Speak truth. Even when your voice trembles. Stand tall. Even when your knees shake. Justice is far more important than adding more injustice. Equality is far more lofty than shaking a can of spray paint. Graffiti will always be washed away and dismissed as the ignorance and stupidity that drove it into existence.

Think of it this way. The shock and spectacle of a twerking singer on an awards show might be remembered, but it stains the message of the prize itself. We’re not looking for an award, though. Our prize is much more important, much more stellar than any trophy. It’s the prize of being treated — in every way — like human beings.

Instead of shaking our rear for all to see by destroying property, let’s take the high road. A reasoned conversation or a life well-lived — with total integrity and strength of character — has the ability to come in like a wrecking ball against a wall of shame, insanity, and yes, even bigotry.