Posted: July 29, 2012 in Politics

I thought it would be fitting for this to be the first post.  Much controversy and imbroglio has arisen in recent days as Chick-fil-A president Truett Cathy announced (to the surprise of no one in the gay community or those familiar with the customer’s Baptist heritage) that his organization was “guilty as charged” of accusations that they supported traditional marriage.*  So guilty in fact that the organization donated nearly $5M to anti-gay causes in the past decade.  For advocates and activists, we knew this already, but the rest of the country hopped on board the old-news express this week.

First, Mayor Menino, in true bureaucratic fashion, wrote a strongly worded letter:

This made national news, until our lovely Boston mayor was out-shined by a slightly more famous pol, Chicago mayor and former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel and the city’s Alderman, Proco Moreno, chimed in.  But it wasn’t just the typical beltway blowhards who decided to make this national news: none other than Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy agreed that Chick-Fil-A’s stance on LGBT issues and marriage equality meant that they could no longer be friends.

It seems that Chick-Fil-A was spurned by this announcement, and started making dastardly accusations towards Gonzo et. al. (below).

Notice that Muppet toys will no longer be available because they are unsafe. Perhaps they’re worried you’ll realize the truth about Bert and Ernie.

And as the mayors of progressive cities running for re-election everywhere started issuing bans and fatwas against, what I’m told, is the most homophobic producer of chicken sandwiches, a predictable rally-cry was heard from those on the right.  Commentators like Rush Limbaugh called Menino and Emanuel Stalinists, and others railed about first amendment issues, government overreach, etc..  So called traditional-marriage conservatives Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum tweeted that they were enjoying some tasty Chick-Fil-A as most twitter uses re-tweeted with scathing replies.

It’s all been quite dramatic, really, and even typical progressive Allies like the ACLU and Mayor Bloomberg have begun criticizing reactionary politicians for curtailing the civil liberties of corporate-person Chick-Fil-A.  Another unlikely stance comes from  Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who is veering as hard-left as possible to try to keep Massachusetts Democrats from voting for Elizabeth Warren in November, came out (no pun intended) against Cathy’s remarks and, trying not to offend anyone, said that Massachusetts law would take care of any discrimination concerns whether or not Chick-fil-A made an appearance on the Freedom Trail.  Fried chicken, along with slow news cycles, makes strange bedfellows!

So what to make of all of this?  Is it really a free speech issue?  Will the market decide (through boycotts from the left and donations from the right) whether this fast food chain will show up on Beacon Hill?  Does anyone really care?

From a personal perspective, I appreciate the comments of Mayors Menino and Emanuel, and all of the politicians who have come out declaring that the values of Chick-fil-A are not in keeping with the values of the community.  I think it’s a show of solidarity for the gay community more than anything, with perhaps a little bit of political posturing thrown in.  While those in charge can make permitting and licensing difficult for Chick-fil-A, it’s unlikely that these well-intentioned politicians will be able to prevent the restaurant from expanding northward (though Northeastern made it difficult).

In reality, this is more than a free speech issue.  I don’t think Cathy’s views really have anything to do with the true problem — that Chick-fil-A is donating millions of dollars to hate groups.  I wonder — if they had donated to the KKK, there would be this much outrage about politicians trying to keep them away? Here is where those on the right claim that these liberal pols have already allowed hate groups — many citing Farrakhan or certain fundamentalist Islamic churches — to reside in the most progressive cities.  The difference being, in my mind, that those groups (whose opinions I don’t agree with) are trying to protect minority interests, whereas Chick-fil-A is actively donating money to maintain current power structures and the status quo.  It’s the rhetorical equivalent of saying “Well, there’s a gay pride parade that I don’t agree with, so why can’t we have a straight pride parade?” — not recognizing that most institutions in the US are Christian institutions, and every day is a straight pride parade.  Others will contend that the groups that Chick-fil-A donates to aren’t “hate groups” in the same way the KKK is, so that the analogy isn’t valid.  I suppose that depends on the view from where you’re standing, as the KKK were (and are) pretty strongly against inter-racial marriage.

Either way, I’m proud that we’re getting to a point where people aren’t just shrugging at large donations being given to homophobic groups (some of which commission misleading studies about the impact of gay parenting).  Meanwhile, marriage equality has served as a boon for local economies in states that have recently legally recognized such unions, proving that progressive agendas can stimulate the economy.

Such impassioned debate is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.  Does anyone have the number for a good relationship counselor to help Chick-fil-A and the muppets work out their differences?

*Jon Stewart takes on “traditional marriage,” Chick-fil-A, and the Boy Scouts


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