There’s been crazy tumult over Chick-Fil-A’s recent assertion that their COO Dan Cathy basically abhors marriage equality because they believe that the Christian God doesn’t like it. Many people, including myself find the statement itself insulting. But I feel insulted on a regular basis by all kinds of different people and you know what? I seem to make it through my day. Why is this different?
The left is genuinely concerned that a very popular company feels comfortable showing what is, in their eyes (and mine), outright bigotry. However, it is not just the attitudes of bigotry that are offensive but the actions that result. Now Chick-Fil-A seems relatively blameless in showing bigotry in the day-to-day operations of their stores. They don’t seem to refuse to hire or serve members of the LGBTQ community. (Maybe.) That’s good! But they do give money to Exodus International and the Family Research Council. I think we all know about Exodus’s abusive practices in “reparative therapy” and the FRC has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The amounts are small, about a thousand dollars each, but still important. When a company materially supports groups that aim to restrict the civil rights of a marginalized group we need to move from simple distaste to action.
I think the argument that you will hear from the right is that opponents of Chick-Fil-A’s views aren’t just disagreeing with ideas but attempting to disrupt their business. The mayors who have implied that they will work to keep Chick-Fil-A out of their cities are clearly wrong. Would suppressing differing views even be in there city’s overall interest? I doubt it, and even if it were they lack the executive power to do anything about it. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino may be perfectly right in asserting that Chick-Fil-A’s values clearly clash with the state of Massachusetts but he cannot deny regular privileges of citizens to citizens and their businesses because of it.
At best these politicians were making a statement that followed their own consciences and that of their constituents and at worst pulling a stunt. It was, even though I agree with them in principle, an error to do so. Sure, they are a wonderful representation of how far marriage equality has come that important politicians feel able and called to defend it. Did these letters produce any changes in attitude? Did they actually make their own cities or any other cities a more tolerable place for advocates of marriage equality? Doubtful.
What we need is a way to meet both sides in a way that is fruitful to tolerance. I suggest making clear that a boycott aims to change, in clear ways, the material harm done to the LGBTQ community and to marriage equality. The left must be able to tolerate differing opinions in the same way we require the right to respect ours. Chick-Fil-A representatives can believe, can personally support, and can vote in any way they wish but donations from the company itself cannot be used to suppress a minority group.
Or you can just opt out of the whole system by eating healthy non-fast-foods. Probably the best option all around.