Did you know that the most pressing issue facing the United States right now is whether or not a national restaurant chain opposes gay marriage? It’s news to me. Here I thought that that there were much more serious issues facing our nation, such as the economy, the budget deficit, economic turmoil in Europe, rising gas prices, and the on-going occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Apparently, I was wrong.
In case you’ve been under a rock the last few weeks, during an interview with the Baptist Press, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy expressed oppositon to gay marriage, a position that wasn’t too terribly surprising given that his company has donated heavily to “pro-family” organizations. Cathy’s comments, which are grounded in his Christian beliefs, have earned the ire of pro-gay marriage groups, who called for a boycott of the restaurant chain, which is a dumb idea. The mayors of three cities also told the media that Chick-fil-A wasn’t welcome in their towns.
Seriously, this is the most absurd fake outrage I’ve ever seen in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I support gay marriage. However, I also believe in free speech. Sure, free speech occasionally comes with consequences — you have the right to say what you want, but you’d better be willing to live with it, but many of the people who have gotten on a soap box about this don’t exactly have their hands clean. As Conor Friedersdorf notes, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel worked for President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama at times when they opposed gay marriage:
Many voices have beat me to clucking at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for suggesting that its appropriate to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening a Windy City store because its CEO opposes gay marriage. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh explained why the threatened action is a violation of the First Amendment. Glenn Greenwald insisted that all liberals should object to the awful precedent it would set. Wrote Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, “You don’t hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway.”
All that’s left to say is what Michael Brendan Dougherty alludes to: As mayor of a safely Democratic city, Emanuel avows that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.” In his initial formulation, since walked back, opposition to gay marriage is cast as so awful a transgression as to render one unfit to sell Chicagoans fast food! Yet Emanuel had no problem helping Barack Obama to attain the most powerful office in America while Obama was against gay marriage, a position the president clung to until this year. Nor did he shy away from Bill Clinton, helping him to win the Democratic primary in 1992 and serving as an adviser even after Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act.
And that’s another point that should be made. If you’re expressing outrage at Chick-fil-A, why the hell were you not protesting President Obama before his “evolution” on the issue just a couple of months ago?
What Chick-fil-A does with a consumer’s money after the point-of-sale is none of anyone’s concern. They’re a private company, and one that has been run exceptionally well. And if you just can’t get over it, just don’t eat there — as ridiculous as the idea of a boycott is.
As far as the outrage over Chick-fil-A is concerned, Andrew Sullivan, who is gay, provides us with some wise words:
Intimidating a business because its chairman expresses his perfectly legitimate – if to me, misguided – views, should have absolutely nothing to do with a civil rights movement. Civil rights movements are about expanding freedom, including for those with whom we disagree. The impulse by some well-meaning heterosexual allies to ban or shut down or somehow use the power of the state to police thought in this way is simply anathema to what we ought to stand for. There is no contradiction between marriage equality and a robust defense of the rights of those who oppose marriage equality – including maximal religious freedom and maximal free speech. In fact, it is vital that we eschew such tactics, as they distract from a positive argument that has been solidly winning converts for two decades.
The point is that we all have to live together even while we passionately disagree. That toleration is the challenge of our time, and it goes both ways.
If we gays now try to suppress others’ rights, we have become nothing less than what we have opposed for so long. And there’s a worrying tendency – more pronounced on the right than left, but still potent on the far left – not simply to oppose the arguments of the other side in a cultural debate, but to delegitimize them as people of equal standing. But calling a bunch of good-faith people bigots and leveraging government power against them is, in my mind, no morally different than calling a bunch of people perverts and leveraging government power against them.
I don’t believe that Dan Cathy is a bigot, though I completely disagree with him. I believe he is a Christian who is expressing his religious views. The real bigots here are those that are seeking to penalize a company for an opinion with which they disagree. But as far as I’m concerned, there are more pressing issues facing our country than the opinions expressed by the head of a chicken restaurant.