Let’s take a short quiz: The controversy over Chick-fil-A’s president opposing gay marriage is a matter of:
- First Amendment rights
- Corporate irresponsibility
- None of the above
If you ask me, the answer is either C and D, depending on your political and social sensibilities.
Yesterday I wrote that I don’t really care about the controversy because I don’t eat at Chick-fil-A and the story looked more like one of political grandstanding than squashed rights. Naturally, some of my friends and readers thought I was missing the point. Said one friend:
Two mayors threatened to deny [Chick-fil-A] licenses. It’s a 1st Amendment issue. Plus, it was Dan Cathy’s personal views. Threatening the company that employs him is thuggery.
Said another friend:
FYI – The Cathy family *owns* CFA – not just an employee. The 1st Amendment only applies to gov’t reprisal for speech. Not private action.
To that, the first friend noted that the reprisals were from Boston mayor Thomas Menino, Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
And on the Twitter discussion went.
Is this about First Amendment rights? Sure. Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy is an American, and as such he has every right to share his beliefs without fear of government reprisal. True, the mayors of Boston and Chicago joined some other politicians in telling Chick-fil-A to get off their lawns, but to me that was nothing more than grandstanding to score a few points with voters. They can threaten to evict, but in the end we all know they can’t do that.
The mayors deserve big ugly dunce caps for their tough talk. They shouldn’t have threatened at all because they can’t follow through, nor should they be able to. It restricts freedoms.
This is also about the right of Americans to support or protest a corporation based on the political views coming from its CEOs, presidents and other leaders. That’s not thuggery; it’s freedom of expression. I don’t like people shoving their views in my face, but they still have the right to express themselves, whether they’re standing outside with protest signs or standing in line in a show of support.
Is this about corporate responsibility? Perhaps. Consumers have the right to hold companies to high standards and punish them with boycotts when they feel a line has been crossed. But while some see Cathy’s opining as an irresponsible smear against gays, others see it as a courageous stand. There is no black and white here.
To me corporate responsibility is more about the quality of the product, the treatment of the customer and honest bookkeeping, however. That’s my opinion. Feel free to disagree.
There’s another aspect worth considering, which Erin (wife of Bill and managing editor of this blog) brought up. In her words:
If the CEO is open about being against gay marriage, how much of his belief is part of the corporate culture? Are gays hired at CFA, from the highest to the lowest? Are they treated equally? Are there regular gay customers of CFA who are not treated equally? The CEO can believe what he likes and espouse it, but he can’t allow his company to discriminate based on his beliefs. Not blatantly, not subtly. And maybe that’s the real danger of a powerful person espousing his discriminatory beliefs so openly: there are those who will take it as license to discriminate accordingly, whether to please the boss or because they feel safe to act on their own beliefs.
In the final analysis, my feelings are still summed up by this comment, made by another friend on Facebook:
Dammit people, what’s wrong with you? Eat where you want to eat! Love who you want to love! Do whatever you want to do, just don’t expect everyone else to necessarily agree with you, share your views, or hate your enemies. Live life and stop worrying about who the hell ate yummy chicken today!
With that, it’s on to the next subject.