Cracker Barrel’s Anti-Gay Founder Dies at 76
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s anti-gay founder, Dan Evins, died at 76, the New York Times reported on Jan. 18.
Although the Southern country comfort food chain was best known for its bland and artery-clogging dishes and its kitschy gift store, it was also known for something more heinous -- its treatment towards its gay employees.
In 1991, most states did not have anti-discrimination laws that protected LGBT employees. Cracker Barrel instituted a policy that called for its workers to display "normal heterosexual values. If they did not "display these values," they faced losing their job.
After a decade of being slammed by gay rights groups and pressured by the company’s stockholders, the restaurant chain finally eliminated the anti-gay policy. Then, in 2002, more than half of its shareholders voted in favor of adding sexual orientation to the company’s nondiscrimination policy.
Evins said that he allowed the policy because "gay people made customers in rural areas feel uncomfortable." In addition, it has been reported that about 16 openly gay Cracker Barrel employees have been fired because of their sexual orientation.
In an April 2010, however, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) placed the Cracker Barrel as the third worst place for gays to work in the country. The organization’s annual survey assessed American business’ treatment of the LGBT community and said that the Cracker Barrel "doesn’t prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, provide partner benefits, or require diversity training that includes sexual orientation."
"They actually put a policy like this in writing, which was, and still is, shocking," David Smith, a spokesman for the HRC said.
Evins, who founded the first Cracker Barrel in 1969 in Lebanon, Tenn., passed away from bladder cancer, according to his former wife Donna S. Evins.
Currently, there are more than 600 Cracker Barrels in 42 states, with annual sales more than $2.4 billion.