Gay marriage, the Muppets, and a fast-food chicken franchise: what do they have to do with each other? Nope, it’s not about Bert and Ernie’s eating habits.
It’s a question of free speech amidst political disagreement.
Dan T. Cathy told a Christian news organization that his company, Chick-fil-A — founded by his father, S. Truett Cathy — supported the traditional, and quite Biblical, definition of “the family unit.” (Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t use the ugly term “family unit.”) The Southern-fried chicken fast-food chain and its management have long had this position. It’s not new. Indeed, this should surprise no one, since the idea of gay marriage is itself fairly new — at least in legal terms. Of course many folks are going to hold to a traditional idea. It’s not controversial that this is controversial.
Still, a contentious issue has two sides, and some of Cathy’s opponents decided that a bit of protest was in order, so they’ve set August 3 as the date for a “same-sex kiss-in” at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country. It is sort of legal, if not exactly to my taste. (I don’t want heterosexual couples smooching near where I’m eating, either. I embrace public protest, but, frankly, protest public embracing.)
Next, Mike Huckabee declared August 1 as Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum then sided with Huckabee to rally his Twitter followers to patronize Chick-fil-As in the very opposite of a boycott, to show support.
The Jim Henson Company, which had a long business relationship with the company, then declared it would donate its receipts from Chick-fil-A toy sales to a prominent gay/lesbian cause.
This last escalation runs over the line.
It’s one thing to withhold one’s patronage from a restaurant. It’s the same thing to support whatever non-violent cause you like, by going to a particular restaurant or in other ways. But running a business out of town because you don’t agree with the cause that some of the business’s managers or owners happen to espouse? That’s not upholding the rights of citizens — certainly not the right to buy from whomever they want or sell to whomever they want.