Menino v. Chick-fil-A

Originally posted on boston.com’s On Liberty blog.

Nothing else explains the Mayor’s decision to issue a public letter to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, blasting Mr. Cathy for his opposition to same-sex marriage and “urging” the homophobic fried-food honcho to “back out of your plans to locate in Boston.”

“There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trial and no place for your company alongside it,” the Mayor wrote.

“We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people,” he added. “We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights.”

Huzzah!

But, you may ask, what about Dan Cathy’s rights?

Everybody has a right to spout off about same-sex marriage and equal rights. Mr. Cathy and those who share his views can have their shout, even if their views are bigoted. Likewise, the Mayor and others who reject Mr. Cathy’s backwards views on marriage equality have a right publicly to denounce prejudice. That’s the American way.

Of course, there are limits. Chick-fil-A and other restaurants must abide by Massachusetts nondiscrimination laws in employment and public accommodations. Similarly, government officials who engage in state action – such as refusing a permit – based on viewpoint discrimination are subject to strict scrutiny by the Courts for potentially violating the First Amendment.

Looks like that’s what happened in Chicago, where a local alderman threatened to use his “aldermanic privilege” to actually deny Chick-fil-A a building permit. There, Mr. Cathy may have a pretty strong claim under the First Amendment that he is a victim of viewpoint discrimination by a government official.

But here in Boston, the facts as reported suggest this is little more than a war of words – which is protected by the First Amendment as core speech.

Personally, I think this whole spat may be good for equal marriage rights in the long run. Did you see that politicians Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee are now trying to rally all homophobes to eat at Chick-fil-A?

I’m thrilled. In fact, I encourage all bigots to load up on transfats and carbohydrates. Go ahead – eat your heart out on the “Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit” breakfast! Mmmm.

Given that polls consistently show that support for equality under the law grows stronger with each new generation of Americans, this might just might be turn out to be a happy meal for defenders of equality after all.

Learn more about freedom of expression: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Add a comment (13)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

I'm a little disturbed by ACLU's total misunderstanding of the issue here. Most of my gay friends aren't ticked off at CFA because they hold anti-gay views, it's because actively take their profits and spend it anti-gay legislation, which is harmful to me. Not mentioned once in ACLU responses. Why such the big disconnect on this?

RRoberts

Yes, a wonderful tolerant view on the part of the ACLU. We support your right to express your views as long as you agree with us.

The fact is that people who believe marriage is between a man and a woman are NOT necessarily bigots.

I believe that marriage is a man and a woman. I believe that not because of religion, but because of: 1. Biology, and; 2. Anthropology. I also believe that a family unit consists of a man, woman, and children and that is the best way for the children to grow.

So which you of you tolerant liberals will be the first to call me a BIGOT.

Anonymous

Specifically which bigots are you encouraging to load up on transfats? There are plenty on all sides.

Roy McGuffin

Homophobes..... No suprise SSM has failed every time it's been put before voters. Grow up and make a case, with more than smears and insults, for devolving an institution established world wide.

Disappointing. ...

Dear Ms. Rose,

I have been a member of the ACLU since I was 19 years old, when federal agents executed an illegal search of my home. I have remained a faithful supporter ever since, paying dues every year and creating civil liberties groups on campus. I have volunteered for the ACLU and found inspiration in that work. In particular, I decided to become a criminal defense attorney due to my exposure to these issues.
Ms. Rose,

Your recent statements regarding Chik-Fil-A make me question your commitment to civil liberties and the First Amendment. The ACLU has always been associated with the protection of free speech, even unpopular speech. Such expression is perhaps the most important to defend because the rest of society condemns it and seeks to censor it.

As the Executive Director, you should be advocating for Chik-Fil-A's free speech rights, even though you may detest the content of the message. When you label Chik-Fil-A supporters as bigots and suggest that they have heartattacks, you side with those who seek to censor them. You only fuel ignorance about free speech when you write such venomous words. Such statements are also wholly unprofessional for someone of your statute. This is greatly disappointing and I will no longer pay membership dues or associate myself with the ACLU unless you retract your statement and make your priorities more clear.

Sincerely,
-James Thompson

Disappointing.

As the Executive Director, you should be advocating for Chik-Fil-A's free speech rights, even though you may detest the content of the message. When you label Chik-Fil-A supporters as bigots and suggest that they have heartattacks, you side with those who seek to censor them. You only fuel ignorance about free speech when you write such venomous words. Such statements are also wholly unprofessional for someone of your statute. This is greatly disappointing and I will no longer pay membership dues or associate myself with the ACLU unless you retract your statement and make your priorities more clear.

SnowWolf

I very rarely eat at Chick-Fil-A but I intend to tomorrow....perhaps twice tomorrow.....

If you don't like Dan Cathy's views don't eat there...but Politicians going after somebody for saying something they didn't like is a bit Communist don't you think?

John Prospero

Good Job with article...your true colors and your true positions on free speach oozed out in the most spetacular fashion.

Anonymous

Chick-fil-a will not hire gay employees and they will fire current employees for "questionable" behavior even off the job. Will the ACLU defend me if I berate women and refuse to hire females?

Kerry R Jennings

And this person is a Director of the ACLUwhat has the ACLU become ???

Pages

Sign Up for Breaking News