Why Boston Shouldn’t Block Chick-fil-A
Admittedly, I was very conflicted by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s vow to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening a location near the city’s renowned Freedom Trail. After all, I support marriage equality, and Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s statement that gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgement on our nation” is deplorable in my eyes, though not quite as deplorable as the $5 million Chick-fil-A contributed between 2003 and 2010 to Christian groups that support anti-gay causes, not to mention its opposition to pro-choice legislation.
Still, after much deliberation, no matter how reprehensible I find Cathy’s thoughts on homosexuality and abortion rights, he’s every right to express them. However, unlike Josh Ozersky, I’ve long decided to boycott Chick-fil-A, because I don’t want to patronize a business that actively supports anti-gay causes; I’m within my rights as a private citizen to do so.
But Menino’s vow is a dangerous example of government overreach. Cathy’s views and opinions might be unpopular to some (and to me, deplorable) but he has the first amendment protection to express them, and Menino is abdicating his responsibility as a public official by failing to uphold Cathy’s right to free speech. Popularity is a fickle thing, by the way: just fifteen years ago or so, most Americans (and Bostonians) were ambivalent, if not oppositional, to gay rights.
Or, put another way: Imagine that a businessman in 1959 were prevented from opening up a restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi because the City’s mayor objected to the businessman’s support of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At the time (and location), supporting African American rights was unpopular.
Now, you might argue that my fictionalized account and Menino’s stand are different: Menino’s act holds to his supposed belief in extending freedoms and restricting discrimination; my fictionalized account is very much the opposite.
Perhaps, but allowing government to penalize unpopular thoughts and opinions…well, we’ve seen that before and it didn’t work out too well. And as conservative radio personality and writer Michael Graham put it (agreeing with Graham–that’s a first for me) wouldn’t Menino’s stance on marriage equality have to include for all the Catholic churches within the City’s borders? And where would that leave Boston?