Some right-wing extremists declared yesterday Chick-Fil-A Day to support anti-gay statements and financial contributions made by the fast-food chain’s owner. It seems an odd thing to publicly celebrate, just as I was shocked when I lived in Virginia and learned that there’s a state holiday honoring Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, two generals who led the Confederate army in the Civil War. I still don’t understand honoring them, and I can’t believe there were commentators and customers cheering on Chick-Fil-A for its bigotry.
I don’t know how many people went to the restaurants specifically for that reason, but I’ve never eaten there and never will, for the same reason I don’t eat Domino’s Pizza — I’m picky about where my discretionary dollars go, and if any of them will be used to support causes I abhor, I’ll choose someplace else. It’s not like those are my only food options.
The Chick-Fil-A story got out of control when the mayors of Chicago and Boston, who disagree with the owner’s stance on gay marriage, said they’d use their powers to keep the company’s franchises out of their cities. That’s an abuse of power, because government — as opposed to individual consumers — may not punish any business owner or citizen for expressing their political views, as repugnant as they may be. In a nation that cherishes free speech, bigots have the same right to spew their intolerance as others have to disagree with them. The same would apply to any municipal official who wanted to exclude a company that was vocally pro-gay-marriage. The mayors, like everyone else, are free to express their opinions on the matter, and even to boycott those businesses personally, but they must not use the power of City Hall to block the company from opening a store if it chooses to.
These businesses know nothing of my personal boycott and, because I was unlikely to patronize them in the first place, I realize that I’m not hurting their bottom line. In my radio career, I have often turned down endorsement opportunities for companies or products I didn’t want to be associated with, including firearms shops and alternative medical quackery. I didn’t issue a statement or make a big deal out of it. I’m not on a mission to get you to stop buying their products, because you can make up your own mind about your own money. I simply opt out of giving them my support, just as I didn’t buy BP gas after their irresponsible handling of the gulf oil spill. Somehow, that multi-national conglomerate still thrives without my business, and Chick-Fil-A won’t be going away anytime soon, but I consider it a matter of conscience.
I have played poker many times at the Venetian, which has a huge, well-run room and lot of games running all the time. When I was in Vegas earlier this summer, I was torn about going there, because I know it has some of the best action in town. But this year, its owner, Sheldon Adelson, has been very publicly donating tens of millions of dollars to presidential candidates whose policies are anathema to me. First, he single-handedly bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s insanity-fest in the primaries, and now he’s writing checks to get Mitt Romney in the White House. Because I don’t want any of my cash to find its way into those coffers, I didn’t play at the Venetian, and won’t anytime soon. Adelson and I are both making choices regarding where our money goes.
But here’s the real bottom line: in the long run, the cause the Chick-Fil-A owner and his supporters are fighting for is a losing one. Despite the best efforts of the closed-minded who believe the Bible trumps the Constitution, America keeps progressing on social issues. There were religious zealots that supported Prohibition, segregated restaurants, and banning interracial marriage. How did those work out?