July 30, 2012 at 9:56 am EDT | by Kevin Naff
In defense of Chick-fil-A

What’s worse than the president of a large national company denouncing marriage equality and donating millions in company profits to anti-gay causes?

How about government officials using homophobia as an excuse to deny that company the right to operate?

That’s exactly what’s happening in the debate over Chick-fil-A, whose president Dan Cathy backs the “biblical definition of family,” according to remarks he made in two recent interviews.

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” Cathy said.

Of course Cathy’s views are repugnant and backward, but there’s an easy, sensible response: Don’t eat at Chick-fil-A. Unfortunately, some well-meaning politicians have jumped into the fray and are taking their good intentions to dangerous extremes.

Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno threatened to block the opening of a Chick-fil-A restaurant there unless the company adopts an anti-discrimination policy, according to an AP report.

In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter that went viral last week in which he offers passionate support for marriage equality before taking that support too far. “I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

Predictably, some LGBT rights groups gushed in support of this frightening overreach. The Human Rights Campaign issued a press release commending Menino’s rebuke of Chick-fil-A titled, “HRC Commends Boston Mayor Thomas Menino for Saying No to Chick-fil-A.”

“We applaud Mayor Menino for calling out Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay policies,” HRC’s Fred Sainz said in the statement. “… Chick-fil-A is on the wrong side of history, and we look forward to seeing more and more elected officials and businesses speak out against their discriminatory practices.”

Meanwhile, in Chicago, an LGBT group called The Civil Rights Agenda, offered similar praise for Moreno.

“We applaud the statements made by Alderman Moreno and Mayor Emmanuel regarding Chick-fil-A,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “… The statements made by Dan Cathy show that this restaurant has no place in Chicago. We will continue to work to ensure that Chick-fil-A is not welcome in this city until they see the value of acceptance and diversity.”

These tactics are mindboggling in their shortsightedness. Leave it to LGBT activists to render Chick-fil-A’s hate mongers the victims.

It’s true that the bigots at Chick-fil-A are on the wrong side of history, but unfortunately so are HRC and the groups that support government retaliation against a citizen on the basis of his political views. Does the LGBT movement really want to find itself on the losing side of a debate over freedom of speech? Sure, criticize Cathy and his views. Organize boycotts and protests of the restaurants. And use this ugly episode to make the case for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, because surely Cathy’s LGBT employees lack job security. But endorsing government attacks on a business over its president’s views — however offensive and wrong — is reckless and ignores our community’s long, painful history of being victimized by government officials.

This government intrusion on free speech rights is a double-edged sword. Have we forgotten the days when police raided our bars? When the White House ignored the exploding AIDS epidemic because gay men were the ones seen as suffering? When writers for this newspaper were forced to use pen names because they feared for their day jobs working in the government?

Members of the LGBT community ought to be the most aggressive in defending the freedom of speech. We continue to use it in powerful ways to advance our equality. To now applaud politicians who would deny business licenses to companies based on the political views of their owners might feel good, but are we so desperate for validation that we want to stoop to the ugly (and unconstitutional) practices of our opponents?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right when he said, “trampling on the freedom to marry whoever you want is exactly the same as trampling on your freedom to open a store.” Dan Cathy deserves the right of free speech. He’s entitled to his views and welcome to spend his money funding our enemies. It’s ultimately a losing fight so his money is wasted. We should counter his message of hate and intolerance by pressing for justice. This controversy should be Exhibit A in the case for ENDA.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

  • “Of course Cathy’s views are repugnant and backward.”
    In this great world of science and knowledge, I was wondering if you, Kevin Naff, the author of this article, could point me to the study that had determined the Dan Cathy’s views as “repugnant and backward”? There must be something somewhere that proves your value statement to be true for you to make that statement? Please do not make value statements as absolutes truths, when you it is likely that you do not believe there are such things as absolute truths.

  • Incredibly well put.

  • This editorial is unnecessary and rather silly. The heroic officials who proclaimed outrage and threatened to deny “right to operate” would not have been able to follow through. They have backtracked their statements acknowledging the laws that prevent such retaliation. However, the fact that religions continuously successfully lobby governments and deny our rights should be an outrage for every LGBT citizen in the world. I’m thankful that a few leaders spoke before thinking and drew attention to CFA’s political maneuvers. Cathy and other corporate leaders have been operating under the radar for far too long and have been complicit in some of the most hateful efforts to eliminate homosexuals from the earth. (Research the funded trips to Uganda to encourage “kill the gays” laws.) I hope the outrage never stops until our rights are secured. Good luck getting them by playing nice and fair! There are far more laws to protect CFA and Dan Cathy than any LGBT person. You should compare the legal protections and get a grip on reality.

  • Not sure what biblical definition Dan Cathy refers to. I’m all in for concubines, but my wife doesn’t approve.

  • If your Homosexual dont eat at chick fil la.

  • The thought that some one defending their religious view through free speech is not hate mongering. Cathy in his public comments did not call upon similarly minded groups to rise up and protest, he has not threatened any one’s employment within that company. What ever happened to agree to disagree? Why does it have to be such a raucous outcry to take up arms against a company. In a tme of econmic uncertainty do you want to push some issue that is personal, not political, to the point you would possibly negatively impact some one’s ability to make a living and possibly spport their family? Where is the “political correctness ” in that? Cathy’s views would no doubt cover sex outside of marriage as well. Why not gather up all the single parents to boycott? Get over it and focus on issues that protect our society as a whole and collectively allow it to exist, thus allowing all the protection of free speech. To be proud is often diminished by being loud.

    • He cannot operate a public business, using tax deductions, public utilities, and community sponsorship, and state that his company operates with traditional values. Moreover as Americans we don’t by nature support companies that discriminate against any minority. Would you be supportive of this company if he said, due to his values and beliefs he would hire blacks, or maybe divorced women or single parents. No, you would not! You just feel more at ease with Gay discrimination…it’s easier for you!

      • “official list of political and social opinions that I must hold in order to open a business in Chicago.”
        Your opinions don’t matter, but don’t fund government genocide in other countries. Your christian ‘charitable generosity’ may bring in lines of conservative teahadist christian customers, but genocide is still immoral out here in the real world.

        “permitted to earn a living”
        That’s another problem. Remove teapublican thugs from office. That will put the fear of democracy into the buyers of the remaining politicians.

        “Those who repeatedly expressed views contrary to the government could be given special training and re-education”
        You’ll want to stay away from WinShape’s reeducation camps, because they actually exist.

  • Wow. Really impressive and really well written. As a very socially liberal Libertarian I agree fully with your position and was upset when the mayor of my city, San Francisco, took a similar position to Boston’s mayor. I don’t want the SF government deciding which chains can and can’t open in my city based on the beliefs of their management… as you said… the customers can make that decision… if people don’t like it, they shouldn’t eat there. (sadly, of course, SF interferes with which businesses can open in many ways already)

  • First off I wonder if he stoned his kids when they were disobiedent…..cause thats what it says just a couple of verses over from his “biblical definition of family,” Can’t pick and choose just because you want to be hateful.

    Secondly He is the CEO of a FAST FOOD Company making stances on political views that have nothing and i’ll repeat NOTHING to do will the company. If he was lobbying of voiceing concerns about mad cow disease, the way chickens are raised, organic vs regular meats then sure thats something to listen to but you just F’d up your company for being a retard. If a company was against black would you eat there? If it was for communism, or the killing of children, or hated jews, or hated white people would you eat there? probably not

  • @sillyone&will: Naff did not use the word “scientific” or “absolute truth”. He used the words “of course” indicating he expected a consensus around this topic. Nobody ever cited scientific studies to prove that racism is a bad thing either (at least not in terms of proving that it is absolutely wrong.) There is a condescending tone in your statement about the writer not believing in absolutes- and that IS my opinion, not based on any absolute truth.

  • You write, “It’s true that the bigots at Chick-fil-A are on the wrong side of history, but unfortunately so are HRC and the groups that support government retaliation against a citizen on the basis of his political views.” Chick-fil-A is first, not a citizen but a coproration. Second, the corporation is not being blocked, retaliated against, or otherwise targeted by local governments because of it’s “political views” but because of its policy-making efforts with regard to Civil Rights. I’m not a gay-marriage advocate because I think the gay rights movement is missing the point about marriage (we should want the state out of ALL marriage rather than want to be included in a government institution that has oppressed women, poor people, people of color and all those who fall into all of those categories); HOWEVER, local government can and should stand against any business that actively seeks to discriminate in ways that local government does not sanction. I believe the marketplace would have done the job of putting Chick-fil-A out of business without local governments stepping into the fray but I also think local governments have a right and an obligation to exclude companies that do not fit into local communities. We prevent gun shops from opening next to school, strip bars from opening next to churches, etc. Seems perfectly fitting to prevent gay-hating businesses from opening in communities that value gay people.

  • If Chick-Fil-A bigot Cathy denounced Jews and Blacks, I wonder if its heterosexual fans like Republican phonies Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee would change their tunes. Gay bashing, I guess, is okay as long as bigoted heterosexual and religious right politics dominate the scene. The tyranny of the majority against minorities in the USA is a sad daily occurence that needs to always be challenged. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The organized bigots in the USA are counting on citizen indifference. They may be winning.

  • Dan Cathy deserves the right of free speech? To the best of my knowledge, that right continues unabridged. Free however has never meant without consequences or responsibility for its impact.

    Chick-fil-A is suffering no different treatment than Target received for similar behavior. Anybody think that the Target we see today is not a result of the public flogging that they received? Dan Cathy, the individual may not care about LGBT sensitivities but Dan Cathy the CEO surely cares about his brand image and that has plummeted in the days since his flippant, arrogant remarks. He’s lucky his Daddy gave him the company and he is not facing the wrath of shareholders and a Board of Directors for a stock price that would surely be falling as well.

  • I made it my business to go to a Chik-fil-A this weekend and eat. I love the place! Don’t care about what the owner does with his own profits, it’s his business, at least for now. What he believes does not inhibit the quality of the food, or the level of service I was given, as an openly Gay man. No one jeered, no one taunted me and I was not denied service. I will make it a point to eat there regularly. The views of a Fast Food owner/CEO has about as much importance on politics and policies as do those of the Hollywood elite, but I haven’t stopped going to anyone’s movies because of their politics, although I’d prefer not to hear them, and probably disagree simply based on the source.

    • Wow. Seriously Jayson ? Have you done any background research on this case since it exploded on to the news ? It makes no difference what his views are or what he does with the money you spend there ? He uses your money to fund groups that support the death penalty for gay men and women in Uganda!!!! The next time an LGBT charity posts about one of our Ugandan brothers or sisters being hanged, stoned to death or beheaded and inside you cry a little about the struggles other gay men and women face on a daily basis, be happy in the knowledge that some of your money was used to help fund organisations that make this a common occurrence !

    • Jayson,
      I too, went to Chick-Fil-A this week for the first time to see what the fuss was about. And you are right. There are a lot of whack jobs posting on here in blind lamb style political dribble. But, I’m with you. The place was nice, really clean, and everyone was super nice, polite, and happy to help. I was happy to hand my hard earned money over and the chicken really was good. I’m a new fan of Chick-Fil-A. And a long time fan of The First Amendment. In America, you can be a jerk with an awesome product or service, or a person that everyone loves with a lousy product, in the end, we care about the product man. Don’t push the limits too far, we aren’t all going to jump on the bandwagon everytime it rolls by. LOL!

  • I believe he has the right to voice his opinion just as everyone else is doing now. Just because he voices his opinion does not make him wrong. It makes everyone who disagrees with his opinion a hypocrit.

    • Excuse me? How does disagreeing with his opinion make me a hypocrite? Being in opposition to gay marriage is absolutely your right, but it IS still homophobic and reprehensible when you feed a political machine that seeks to legally bar gay people from enjoying the same rights as heterosexual citizens.

  • As absolutely reprehensible as moralists are in their insistence that marriage is between a man and woman ONLY (and their unabashedness about putting people in political office to promote their values), I don’t think local governments blocking the establishment of franchises based on the ignorant and sheltered viewpoints of their Christian managers. If you want to hate gay people and disapprove of them being treated equally under the law, you’re a terrible person. You shouldn’t be legally barred from trying to earn a buck. Economics will take care of that better than the government ever could. Chick-Fil-A can open as many stores as they want in Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, or anywhere else…they simply won’t make any money because CONSUMERS CAN discriminate against a business. Thankfully. If the government just stays out of it what will happen is Chick-Fil-A’s business will fall off a cliff most likely and they will retreat back to the Bible Belt where they are accepted. It’s a problem that fixes itself without government intervention.

  • The first amendment, does not apply.

  • I am sick and tired of straight people telling us, the members of the LGBTQ community, what to do and how to respond to those that persecute us. Mind your own business; you have NO SAY in the matter WHATSOEVER concerning OUR PERSONAL LIVES!
    OUR LIVES – NOT YOURS. Stick your idiot “morals” where the sun don’t shine.

  • Nobody is attacking Chick-fil-A’s right to free speech. Freedom of speech, however, doesn’t provide freedom of responsibility from those comments. Somebody that screams hate against gays be it Dan Cathy, Laura Schlessinger, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), the Boy Scouts of America or the Salvation Army or any politician or preacher should be taken to task for their hateful behavior. I hold each and every one of them directly responsible for every gay teen that is bullied in school, abused, bashed, murdered or tossed out of their home.

    Do I think they should not be all.owed to operate a business, no but they should be held accountable. There is nothing wrong with pushing the United Way not to have the Salvation Army or the Boy Scouts in their program. It is perfectly okay to work to get Chick-fil-A thrown out of university food courts or elsewhere. Preventing them from entering a city is probably going too far but again hate should have consequences. By the way gays should get just as upset when hate is directed towards African Americans, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, women, Asians or any other minority.

    When hate has a financial cost attached companies and organizations will think twice when attacking groups and working to deny them civil rights.

  • In addition to the First Amendment, there’s the matter of “me today, you tomorrow.” In case anyone thinks that conservative local politicians will not try to use the same power against companies that take pro-gay positions, guess what: They already have. Who would like to articulate a principled position that it’s okay for one side but not the other?

  • Poor, poor Dan Cathy. Being victimized by previous patrons who have decided enough abuse is enough.

  • The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects the right of free speech for individuals. But contrary to recent court decisions, free speech is NOT a protected right of corporations or businesses. We must correct this error made by the courts within the US.

  • I am going to raise hell against every known establishment in the USA because my son is a twice convicted felon for simple possession of marijuana. He has never harmed anyone and no, there is no more to his “criminal” history other than what I just stated. He struggles to find employment and is “bullied” by society everywhere he goes because he wears the label of “Convicted Felon”. He is becoming suicidal as a result of being smeared and rejected even after paying his debt to society. The ACLU has no interest in helping him and thousands just like him to rise above, hypocrits they are. People do not have to be married to love each other and be happy but my son desperately needs employment in order to survive and rise above. Put Chick-fil-a and the likes of Cathy out of business and you are hurting many other people at the expense of one right. What about my son and so many other people just like him, or is it really just about your own selfishness? He paid his debts in full. “Convicted Felon” is still the big, red stamp he wears. This is state and government involvement at it’s finest so let’s invite even more! Wonderful idea! Oh, excuse me, I forgot. Homosexuality is legal but weed in this state is not so hang him high. (Meditate on the pettiness of it all. Just think about it… )

  • Freedom of speech is entirely different than funding hate groups that do all in their power to eliminate and prevent the rights of LGBT people. THAT’S what Chick-Fil-A does; not just make mention that they don’t like same-sex marriage because of the Bible. Get off you high horse and wake up to the truth. (You’re part of the problem, by the way). No one is questioning their right to free speech. However, their free speech opened up their own can of worms that many people were unaware of. Would government be intruding on free speech if Chick-Fil-A was owned by the KKK or Neo-Nazis who did the same kind of funding to their perspective groups? What a ridiculous sanctimonious article.

  • Freedom of speech is entirely different than funding hate groups that do all in their power to eliminate and prevent the rights of LGBT people. THAT’S what Chick-Fil-A does; not just make mention that they don’t like same-sex marriage because of the Bible. Get off you high horse and wake up to the truth. (You’re part of the problem, by the way). No one is questioning their right to free speech. However, their free speech opened up their own can of worms that many people were unaware of. Would government be intruding on free speech if Chick-Fil-A was owned by the KKK or Neo-Nazis who did the same kind of funding to their respective groups? What a ridiculous sanctimonious article.

  • Dear Mayor of Chicago; Philly, and San Fran.
    I’m very interested in opening a business in your beautiful city and have a couple of questions and requests.
    If it’s not too much trouble, could you please send me the official list of political and social opinions that I must hold in order to open a business in Chicago.
    It’s recently become clear that merely expressing an “incorrect” opinion could lead to me being barred from doing business there…or at least having to fight Mayor Emanuel’s disapproval every step of the way. It’s hard enough to start a business and create jobs without that kind of resistance! And did I miss somewhere the same righteous indignation from Mayor Emanuel, when he worked for the President of the US, who shared the same views? Or did I miss where Mayor Emanuel has a close association with Mr Louis Farakhan, who blantanly holds an even more radical position against the LGBT folks.

    Now, I’m sure you understand. I would just try to guess which opinions the government requires that I hold, but in a recent case, you folks made clear that an opinion held by half of Americans was completely unacceptable. Guessing which other opinions the government doesn’t permit would be tough! In the case I alluded to (involving the folks from Chick-fil-A) the “illegal” opinion was the same one held by the President of the United States until very recently.
    Perhaps you could put out a “government-approved beliefs” newsletter on a regular basis so no one engaged in unacceptable speech or thought. Those who repeatedly expressed views contrary to the government could be given special training and re-education so that they wouldn’t make silly mistakes anymore!
    Again, thanks for your assistance. I look forward to being in compliance with all acceptable beliefs so that I will be permitted to earn a living.

  • Here is what I have to say. Let the LGBT people go. They will eventually die out due to the fact that biologically they can not reproduce when/if they try. You still have to have both sexes in order to reproduce and what is gained if you have the same sex marriage/partnership? My hat goes off to this Dave Cathy for taking a stand and letting people know his feelings, this is wholly support. The people that showed up in support of this belief did the right thing, in my opinion.

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