I support gay marriage wholeheartedly, and I’ve long been appalled by Chick-Fil-A’s support for theocracy. However, I’m just as appalled by the attempt by the Mayor of Boston to exclude Chick-Fil-A from Boston. It is a contemptible violation of rights — including of the proper separation of church and state.
To Mr. Cathy:
In recent days you said Chick fil-A opposes same-sex marriage and said the generation that supports it as an “arrogant attitude.”
Now — incredibly — your company says you are backing out of the same-sex marriage debate. I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston.
You called supporters of gay marriage “prideful.” Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are “guilty as charged.” We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights.
I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston. There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it. When Massachusetts became the first state in the country to recognize equal marriage rights, I personally stood on City Hall Plaza to greet same sex couples here to be married. It would be an insult to them and to our city’s long history of expanding freedom to have a Chick fil-A across the street from that spot.
Sincerely, Thomas M. Menino
Such would be a fabulous letter from a private person, speaking his own personal opinions. From the mayor, however, that letter implies a threat of force, namely that of excluding Chick-Fil-A from Boston. That’s terribly wrong.
At this point, I strongly recommend that people boycott Chick-Fil-A. I discussed that in the 12 February 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, in fact. Here’s my 15-minute answer to the question, “Should people boycott Chick-Fil-A for its hostility to gays?”
You can also download the MP3 Segment.
Oh, and see this post from Eugene Volokh: No Building Permits for Opponent of Same-Sex Marriage. As Eugene explains, it’s a First Amendment violation, plain and simple:
But denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.
And this is so even if there is no statutory right to a particular kind of building permit (and I don’t know what the rule is under Illinois law). Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result. That’s basic First Amendment law — but Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino, and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if his statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.