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Chick-Fil-A Gets More Unlikely Champions In Marriage Controversy

Chick-fil-A seems to be getting more unlikely champions in the ongoing dispute over marriage.

It’s not only those on the left such as the American Civil Liberties Union that have perhaps surprisingly taken the side of Chick-fil-A following the controversy over CEO Dan Cathy’s support of traditional marriage. Media outlets such as the left-liberal Boston Globe, the far-left Mother Jones, and liberal Time have expressed support for the fast-food chain after public officials in Boston and Chicago made noises about denying the company operating permits or licenses.

For many on the left and the right, the issue is actually not necessarily about the status of marriage or an issue of faith (or non faith), but whether a private company can be muscled by government for certain views that politicians don’t like when there are no complaints about its actual business operations from employees or customers.

Chick-fil-A provides substantial financial support to traditional marriage groups but apparently also donates a lot of cash to wholly non-political charities.

The courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have consistently ruled that money is a form of “speech” subject to constitutional protections.

Further on the subject of money, wouldn’t the most effective remedy for customers who disagree with a particular company policy (or how company profits are directed) to “vote with the wallets” as the saying goes?

Here’s a roundup from liberal publications that support same-sex marriage but at the same time are also defending Chick-fil-A:

The Boston Globe editorialized, in part…

But which part of the First Amendment does [Boston Mayor] Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license…Chick-fil-A must follow all state and city laws. If the restaurant chain denied service to gay patrons or refused to hire gay employees, Menino’s outrage would be fitting…But beyond the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, the religious beliefs of the company’s top executive don’t appear to control its operations….

But using the power of government to freeze the company out of a city sends a disturbing message to all businesses. If the mayor of a conservative town tried to keep out gay-friendly Starbucks or Apple, it would be an outrage.

Here’s what Mother Jones posted on its website:

Blocking construction of Chick-fil-a restaurants over Cathy’s views is a violation of Cathy’s First Amendment rights. Boston and Chicago have no more right to stop construction of Chick-fil-As based on an executive’s anti-gay views than New York City would have had the right to block construction of an Islamic community center blocks away from Ground Zero. The government blocking a business from opening based on the owner’s political views is a clear threat to everyone’s freedom of speech—being unpopular doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. It’s only by protecting the rights of those whose views we find odious that we can hope to secure them for ourselves.

A Time Magazine columnist raised similar concerns:

No evidence has been presented to suggest that Chick-fil-A discriminates against gay or lesbian customers or employees. There is nothing to suggest that the company has broken the law in any way….The only issues at play are the personal view of the owner of the restaurant chain and the philanthropic efforts of the private company…

Would it be O.K. for a mayor to reject a business owned by a Muslim because the mayor was offended by the teachings of Islam? Would it be O.K. for the mayor of a coal community to deny a building permit to a newspaper that planned to write critically of the coal industry?

…Robust public disagreements over issues like the definition of marriage are a symptom of a functioning democracy, not evidence of its dysfunction…Consumers have every right to patronize or boycott any restaurant they choose for any reason. But a government’s responsibility is different. It is one thing for big-city politicians to voice their own views. It is another thing for them to threaten businesses with the power of their elected office for not sharing those views.

Finally, a Chicago Sun Times editorial offered this perspective:

…If the residents of [Chicago Alderman] Moreno’s 1st Ward are offended by those anti-gay views, they can choose to eat elsewhere. They might even organize a boycott. Chick-fil-A will get the message….

Chicago is a proudly gay-friendly town, and Moreno no doubt speaks for many Chicaogans when he says he’s offended by Cathy’s views. But where in the First Amendment does it say that Cathy is free to speak his mind only as long as Moreno agrees with him?

…If and when Chick-fil-A discriminates against a gay customer or employee, that violation of the law — and not Cathy’s personal views — would be grounds for the city coming down hard.

Regardless of your views on the same-sex marriage issue, do you think freedom of speech under the First Amendment is in play in this controversy?

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