The Constitution and Chick-fil-A: Boycotts, Business, and Beliefs

CooperMr. Cooper of the Log Cabin Republicans has a problem with gay people making a big deal out of a chicken sandwich. I don't. Setting aside the unfortunate language that may symbolize both his holier-than-thou moralism and internal self-doubt, Mr. Cooper has a point: whiners aren't attractive, sympathetic, or noble, and in a world where we are trying to prove to majority of Americans that we deserve to be treated equally, fulfilling gay stereotypes does not help. I grant him the underlying point, even while I resist his tone. However, Mr. Cooper makes two logical errors that make his opposition to a Chick-fil-A boycott irrational: He equates the boycott with childish whining, and he equates one man's personal beliefs with the very real efforts of his money.

Refusing to spend money at Chick-fil-A is not simply an attempt to send the company out of business. It is also a statement that we will not support the company's hate and, more importantly, will not be parties to the very hateful groups that want to take our chicken money and invest it in taking away our rights. There is nothing childish about that; in fact, it is the height of rationality.

Mr. Cooper's greatest error is the assumption that the gay community is up in arms at Mr. Cathy's personal beliefs. Mr. Cooper is a smart guy, so, assuming he knows better, I am left to conclude that he is simply falling back on the conservative talking points that gays are "thought police bullies," the incomparably offensive canard that is even more evil when you consider the countless gay youth that are victims of real bullies. Disagreements on matters of opinion are irrelevant to this boycott. Mr. Cathy and his team have donated millions of dollars to organizations that do not simply have opinions. They support candidates that want to strip away our rights and make gay persons invisible to schools; they pay for ballot initiatives that seek to deny and take away marriage rights; and, they pay for political advertisements that call gays "predators," "dangerous," and unworthy of raising children.

Those very real actions — the use of our chicken sandwich money — are the reasons for our boycott. Mr. Cathy is free to hate gay marriage. He is even free to hate gays. We have to respect even those odious opinions. But, the moment he uses his company's money as the arm of his quixotic interpretation of scripture, we are within our rights to deny him as much of that money as possible.

EmanuelBut, Mr. Cooper's logical confusion does not speak to a separate issue: whether big city mayors like Tom Menino of Boston and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago should have the authority to ban Chick-fil-A from their cities. Both men are strong allies of the LGBT community, with Mr. Menino being the godfather of pro-gay city bosses. Both men consider themselves liberals, or progressives. Both are walking a fine liberal line.

A classical liberal should have a tough time arguing for a ban on Chick-fil-A's in his city. To political philosophers like John Rawls, himself the godfather of modern liberalism, government is not there to decide which opinions are right and wrong. Government protects rights, even the rights of people we dislike. Government should not be in the business of arbitrating in the moral debates of its citizens. Therefore, zoning laws should not discriminate between businesses with opinions we like and businesses with opinions we dislike. If progressives use laws to make decisions on public morality, then Chick-fil-A becomes our Ground Zero Mosque. Recall the progressive community's indignant response when hateful conservatives, xenophobes, and bigots opposed having a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan. In that debate, we preferred the neutral application of zoning laws. A liberal should treat the Chick-fil-A controversy the same, the argument goes, lest we begin the slow descent into fascism.

Then again, that argument makes its own three logical errors. First, it assumes that the traditional liberal line is the only way to respond to this problem. Second, it follows Mr. Cooper's failure to distinguish between opinions and very real hate. And, third, it uses the falsehood of the slippery slope to confuse and scare.

Rawlsian liberalism, which counsels government neutrality in moral debates and respect for individual rights for the minority, cannot distinguish between the Ground Zero Mosque and Chick-fil-A. But, we can distinguish between a simple religious house with no ties to terrorist organizations and a business that spends money on codifying hate. It is, after all, the way Chick-fil-A would spend its Chicagoan or Bostonian money that bothers us, not the random hateful statements of some old white man. And, it is a logical fallacy to take a small step and aggrandize it to an extreme. The slippery slope hardly warrants a response.

Here is the question for us to consider: If the money is the problem, then why not let Chick-fil-A open a Chicago or Boston store and, as James Peron noted in The Huffington Post, "allow them to pour capital into a restaurant where no one will eat."

Though that would be a great victory, Mr. Peron must know how impossible that is. Chick-fil-A will open a branch and advertise itself to a public mostly unaware of its history of and future plans to use money to deny rights to gays and lesbians. Thousands would come for whatever it is Chick-fil-A actually sells. If the company tried to take away rights from heterosexual white men, on the other hand, the story would be different: the majority would boycott, the business would fail. Mr. Cathy's hate of choice — hate of a particularly small minority — will never drive away all his customers. So, maybe government has a role to protect the rights of the minority that Mr. Cathy is trying to harm.


Ari Ezra Waldman teaches at Brooklyn Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. His research focuses on technology, privacy, speech, and gay rights. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.


  1. says

    Very well thought out piece. Great read. My only issue is with the statement, “We have to respect even those odious opinions”. We should all respect someone’s right to hold or voice their opinion, that does not mean that the opinion deserves automatic respect.

  2. Jack says


    I’m curious why you didn’t address the dubious constitutionality of banning CFA from cities. Is it because you’ve seen the irrational vitriol and invective hurled at people who dare suggest that the constitution demands a situation that doesn’t agree with what they think the outcome should be?

    Curious that a constitutional scholar evades the constitutional question of “is/can” in favor of the political philosophies of “should.”

    Of course you ARE an academic, so I suppose that kind of diversion is inevitable 😉 (I kid, I kid)

  3. tommyboy10 says

    the thing that I find funny here is that these city officials weren’t forced to say what they said, but lets look at it from another angle, do you really think a hateful restaurant would be safe opening in an area that is diverse? something to consider. and what about places like Boston, where gay marriage is legal, now it is not only an opinion, but it is an attack on the law of that state. and while yes, if we start to ban bigotted conservatives, then we face backlash on our businesses opening with one exception, LGBT business opening do not make hateful statements about people, so there is no reason to deny them eventhough it happens. Not to say we didn’t already know about Chik-fil-A, but when the CEO gets up and makes a public announcement, then I personally don’t feel welcome or comfortable going there.

  4. mld says

    mayors saying a brand is unwelcome isnt the same as banning them.

    will you lawyers, pseudo lawyers and trolls please learn the difference between legislation and a letter using the word “urge”. when unable to legally block a stores opening, it is an absolute, and expected right of a politician to advocate on behalf of their constituency. in a different political arena the same thing happened with the ground zero mosque. its a war of words, and though republicans would have you believe otherwise, not everything is automatically a supreme court issue.

  5. stranded says

    Conservatives are always telling us that the free market will decide, except when they are on the wrong end of social Darwinism. I can’t believe that a company which is becoming more and more clearly divisive will profit when its customers come down to just the hateful white trash of Palin supporters and their ilk, though that’s a lot of people.

    I’m glad to see government representatives taking a stand and vocally chastising CFA, but I wouldn’t want to see them actually acting in blatantly unconstitutional ways to keep new stores from opening. Let NOM boycott JCPenney and we’ll boycott those places we find unacceptible. Over time one side will eventually lose their power, and I am confident, it’s not going to be us.

  6. Homo Genius says

    I think what you missed about the stores is its not an issue or right or wrong opinions. Its an issue of HIRING and the way they do business. If a company is known to discriminate then its a communties right to say we dont need you here. Its equal to say not approving a walmart because it doesnt promote women or Denny’s for not hiring blacks.

    Most gays in the know have boycotted ChikfilA for years already. Its matter of getting the staright population to do the same. And not simply not buying the products but letting the company know they arent buying.

    There is more to it than just what causes the corp donates to

  7. Daniel Pastour says

    Can you believe Starbucks, Amazon, and Ben & Jerrys can donate money to same sex marriage and no one says anything but when a Christian says what is on their mind they are persecuted in public?

  8. Jack says


    It doesn’t matter whether you perceive their statements as hateful. That has literally no bearing on any First Amendment analysis.


    Moreno in Chicago said he would use aldermanic privilege to block the permitting. That would be legislative action. Saying that CFA is not welcome is one thing, saying “I will block them because of their stance on gay marriage” is a whole other ballgame. Maybe us lawyers really know the difference better than you.

  9. says

    Great article. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out after the pandering dies down. I woke up this morning to a picture of the Lt. Governor of Texas and US Senate candidate holding a Chick-fil-A bag on the front page of the local paper (the primary runoff is today).

  10. John says


    I don’t think I agree with you about the boycott. I certainly disagree with the LCR’s tone and reasoning for opposing the boycott. However, I agree that an organized boycott is probably not a good idea. To be certain, if anyone chooses not to eat there because of Mr. Cathy’s statements, that’s fine, but a concerted effort is quite different than an individual decision, even in the aggregate.

    When NOM organized its boycotts of several companies for their corporate statements, the organization was derided for boycotting over personal beliefs. To now do the same just months later looks hypocritical. Of course, the right is hypocritical as well, but that hardly justifies hypocrisy from the LGBT movement. Our hypocrisy and the perception that we are attacking base on a personal belief will undoubtedly be used against us as a recruiting tool. While the right does the same, they notoriously lack the capacity for self-reflection and would fail to see the irony in that.

    I also disagree with your statement that disaggregates Mr. Cathy’s money from his personal beliefs. While certainly the two are distinct, there two are interlinked in a way that cannot be unbroken. If you were to accept your argument, taking it to its logical extreme, my vote can be disaggregated from my personal beliefs. In reality, my vote is an expression of my personal beliefs. Although a vote is not the same as money, money expenditures can be an expression of a personal belief. That’s exactly what a boycott is. So the boycott itself belies your argument.

    The truth is that he is being attacked because of his personal beliefs. That is taboo to acknowledge, but it is the truth. It’s not wrong to criticize one’s personal beliefs and have respectful discussions about them. That’s what democracy is all about. The tricky part in this situation is when the personal belief is a religious belief. It often is perceived as, and viewing many comments here at Towleroad often explicitly is, anti-religion. While its not wrong to be anti-religion, bringing religion into the conversation transforms it from being about policy to something raw and emotional.

    I do not believe this boycott is the best way to approach this issue, not only because of the hypocrisy element, but also the potential impact on employees who have no say in the matter. And before people go off on the employees for even working there, let’s not forget that people in low wage jobs are often there because that’s the only job they could find.

  11. Anon says

    I’ve been looking at the photo of the sandwich. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live the sandwich is routinely served on a mediocre bun with two thin slices of a dill pickle.

    You can pay extra for an “upgrade” of lettuce and tomato.

    I have never seen a sesame seed bun at this restaurant.

    Is that bacon or a wavy tomato? Is that tartar sauce?

    Since I heard that the place is anti-gay, I haven’t eaten there in years. Things must have changed. The sandwich looks good.

    I hope I don’t give in to the temptation to try one.

  12. mld says

    @jack. i did not speak of moreno i speak of mayors emanuel and menino. “Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have sought to clarify that they do not intend to use city resources to block Chick-fil-A’s permitting efforts on account of CEO Dan Cathy’s political or religious views. They stand by their comments, however, that the stores do not belong in their cities.”

  13. Bingo says

    My Mayor Menino is just out of line. I’d like to see them open here in Boston and have to deal with our workforce — generally gay-friendly and gay and not shy about it.

    They’d have to deal with it. And that would be good.

    Boycott? Of course. Why feed the beast?

    Copper’s self-hatred? YOU BET!

  14. Jack says


    Eh, I call BS on both of em. They both made clear before the blowback that they wanted to block CFA from coming. Then once the city lawyers told them how stupid they are, they backtracked.

    The hilarious part about it is how these idiots painted themselves into a corner. Had they kept their gigantic idiotic mouths shut, the may have been able to block permitting based on some legitimate concern (not that I would support such trickery). But no, that wouldn’t have scored cheap political points. Instead, Moreno outright said that he was going to block CFA based on Cathy’s views. Any other justification he tries to bring in now will rightfully be seen as a sham coverup of a First Amendment violation, and no judge will believe a word he says. The council pretty much has no option but to approve the permit now, due to the strong incriminating evidence that Moreno did when he launched a public, recorded assault on the First Amendment.

    What a total assclown.

  15. Bruce says

    You feel the same way about Chich-fil-A as they feel about you so it’s mutual. Why do you think everyone has to love gay people?
    There will be no pleasing you and you’ll always be ready for a fight.
    That’s the nature of woman-ish men. Hell hath no fury like a queen scorned. If you doubt me imagine one reading this.

  16. Mike8787 says

    @John I don’t understand how you can read Ari’s post and still not appreciate the difference between boycotting a company for a CEO’s personal opinion and for donating millions of dollars — earned from consumers — to anti-gay causes.

    Would you donate money to NOM? FRC? No. But when you buy sandwiches from Chick-Fil-a, you do just that. Or, at the very least, you supply someone with money to donate to them. Sure, Cathy can believe what he likes. But when he uses money from gay and LGBT allies to donate to anti-gay causes, I am going to stop eating his food, and do my best to get others who agree with me to do the same.

    Cathy is using your money to give anti-gay organizations the resources to overturn your rights. That has nothing to do with his opinion, other than that it is fueling his actions.

  17. Stefan says

    @Jack–I came to this comment thread all prepared to make several points, but then you made them all for me. Well played, sir.

    And you’re right: lawyers, at least the well trained ones, typically do know what they’re talking about more than people realize.

  18. John says


    Most Chick-Fil-As are franchises, not company stores. The franchise owner would likely come from the community and share the community’s values and Massachussetts anti-discrimination laws. So I’m sure a Chick-Fil-A would be fine there as far as its business practices. Let’s not forget that this issue isn’t about alleged discriminatory hiring or refusing to serve LGBT patrons. It’s about what the corporation has done with its money.

    Is there a harm there? Yes, that’s undeniable. But the boycott is against someone that isn’t going to change its mind. It won’t help us win LGBT equality because unless their understanding of the Bible changes, they are not going to support LGBT rights. It’s okay if the far right doesn’t like the idea of equality. In our hyperpartisan society, we seem to struggle with knowing there are people who disagree with us. The best course of action is to reach out to those in the middle who fairly ambivalent and don’t have strong feelings either way. While there certainly is a moral right and wrong to this issue, when it comes to creating policy there is no morality, only numbers.

    I dont understand what is to be acheived by this boycott or what its goal is. Maybe Chick-Fil-A will stop donating. But that won’t prevent its owners from donating as individuals and won’t stop the American Family Association from spewing its hate. When all is said and done, the next morning will look exactly the same as before, if not more partisan. If there’s no ultimate goal, then why boycott?

    And I’ll reiterate again, don’t eat there if you don’t want to. However, an organized boycott is a very different thing than an individuals’s personal belief that Chick-Fil-A is not the fast food chain for them.

  19. says

    Thanks, Ari, for the thoughtful analysis, one much in line with what I’ve been saying in the CFA threads.

    Cathy’s beliefs are ignorant, but it is the financial ties with groups dedicated to stripping us of civil and constitutional rights that makes the outcry against CFA completely appropriate. Why would citizens or mayors want a business in their neighborhood that is so extremely at odds with the moral and legal values of someplace like MA? Why wouldn’t they/we tell CFA to take a hike?

    Denying permits solely because of CFA’s actions does, I agree, get on very slippery ground, IF CFA is complying with non-discrimination law (which, given their values, is hard to imagine but evidence would be needed). But, while a couple of politicians have spoken of this slippery slope, I’m not aware that any steps have been taken, so the hysteria over the possibility seems premature, particularly since they’ve backed up to bully pulpit area when legal minds urged caution. And bully pulpit opposition is quite different than using the government to block permits.

    I also wish people would stop using the, But what if conservative mayors block pro-gay chains like Starbucks or JC Penney’s or a gay bookstore etc? First, let them rationalize this. We should not be afraid of free speech from the other side because the comparison is not apt. CFA is working with groups to deprive citizens of civil rights; pro-equality companies are doing nothing of the sort as marriage equality does not trample on anyone’s civil liberties. Not that the right will buy this distinction, but the distinction should not be ignored simply because people (like CNN talking heads) are too unaware to make it.

  20. Derek says

    a question:

    so boycotting a company that supports hate is bad? just because we disagree with boycotts for companies that believe in equal right?

    there is something wrong in that logic…hmmm???

    and ws NOM not consider a hate group last year?

    i keep scratching my head at some of the comments here…

  21. Rahm Quinn says

    Politican’s response: We wholeheartedly welcome good corporate citizens to bring their businesses into our city/state, businesses that provide services, products and employment opportunities to our citizens, regardless of color, creed or orientation.

    Where there is evidence that a company illegally discriminates against customers or employees or franchisees, however, we will scrutinize the company’s practices in the process of granting licenses and applications, until we are satisfied that the companies are observing all relevant laws, local, state and federal. And we will continue this scrutiny to ensure compliance.

    We are committed to protecting the rights of ALL citizens to live and work free from discrimination—those who operate businesses, those who work in business, and those who consume goods and services.

  22. John says


    I’m not disputing where the money came from. I disagreed with his questioning of Mr. Clark’s equating the harm of the money with Mr. Cathy’s personal beliefs.

    Nor am I suggesting anyone eat there if they do not wish to. I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A. I am opposed to an organized boycott. Do you shop at Walmart? Buy gas from Exxon? If not, are you doing so because of a personal decision about those companies or as part of a more organized boycott? The distinction between the two is important as the latter draws lines around entire groups and establishes an us vs them mentality that I don’t think is appropriate in this case. See my response to Bingo above for more on that.

    Although we tend to think there are only two sides to every argument, that simply is not true. That I disagree does not mean I support Chick-Fil-A, that I’m anti-gay, or that I’m self-loathing. I’m simply voicing my opinion that this boycott isn’t a great idea. I surely hope that our community is willing to leave ample room for dissent.

  23. bobbyjoe says

    Progressives are frequently led down the path to debate side issues instead of keeping their eye on the ball. This is exactly such a case.

    Those mayors made hyperbolic statements. So what? They aren’t the issue. The main issue is that a significant number of people in this country are still being denied their rights and treated as second class citizens. And when people start giving massive amounts of corporate money to keep us from those rights, we need to keep the heat on them.

    But now many progressives– including gay ones like Glenn Greenwald, for example– are now spending all their time debating tangential issues to this controversy like what’s the definition of “corporate personhood”– which is, indeed, an interesting debate were we dealing with a different issue or all on a debate team, but frankly masturbatory in the face of the actual status of GLBT people in this country. The mayors are obviously not constitutionally able to keep out Chick-Fil-A and are obviously engaging in hyperbole to play to their constituent base. Eureka, end of that discussion. Politics is sure surprising: people make big statements they can’t really keep for effect. Gee, let’s spend days debating that.

    Instead we allow ourselves to get sidelined so that now, instead of talking about, say, the kind of actual sustained street protest that has historically gotten results, we sit at our computers and pretend we’re junior league members of the Harvard debate club debating ourselves. If we spend a lot of time attacking our allies, gosh, maybe somebody will see us as “fair” and hand us a blue ribbon for niceness. I counted how many “degrees of separation” Greenwald had gotten to by the time he was debating “corporate personhood” yesterday in regard to Chick-Fil-A and it had reached 8– literally debating a backlash to a backlash to a backlash to a backlash, etc., etc., — so that the central issue was seriously lost in the mix– i.e., what are we actually gonna DO as activists, not merely what are we gonna scold people for and what we’re NOT gonna do– This sidelining only serves the enemies of GLBT rights.

    I just watched the excellent new documentary on Vito Russo that’s on HBO right now, and I came away feeling that I’m sure glad we had Vito Russo in those historic moments and not, say, Glenn Greenwald, or else instead of pounding the pavement over GLBT rights and AIDS, forming major alliances and getting results, we would have spent all our time trying to prove we were equally critical of “both sides” and writing impotent debate team polemics about zoning issues.

  24. Mike8787 says

    @John Your argument rests on the assumption that making it as “us v. them” battle is a bad thing — that we somehow need to be “above” taking sides. We have a very clear side: we’re fighting for our rights. There is nothing shameful, immature, or wrong about drawing a line in the sand and saying, “You spend your money to deny our rights, and we and our supporters will not support you.”

    To say you don’t support a boycott because, while being pro-gay, you don’t want to make this contentious issue, is ridiculous. Your argument is the equivalent of saying that blacks shouldn’t have staged lunch counter sit-ins because it reduced the diner owners to their racist beliefs, and made it a blacks v. them situation. Challenging intolerance is the only way to defeat it — and in this corporate world, boycotts are one of the only effective ways to get a major corporation’s attention.

    Finally, while I neither shop at Walmart nor buy gas from Exxon, the reason some do that is not because of personal decisions — it is because we live in a place and time where it is hard to keep informed of all the corporations out there and where they donate their money. It is also not feasible to boycott all organizations all the time — some of us just don’t have the resources to go elsewhere. But when it comes to a “luxury” like chicken sandwiches, that’s easy. Eat something else. But to suggest that people don’t boycott Exxon or Walmart is (1) wrong, because they do, and (2) not because of “a personal decision,” but the realities that govern how and where we can get goods that we need.

  25. says

    I would recommend that these mayors ask their city councils to divert any city sales tax generated by Chik-Fil-A or other anti-gay businesses to be given directly to a pro-gay group- a hotline for troubled teens to call, a homeless shelter for LGBT teenagers, a community center. Don Cathy would likely prevent a store from opening if he knew that all of that tax money was going to directly benefit LGBT people.

  26. MiddleoftheRoader says

    While this is a good piece about the non-legal issues associated with the Chick-Fil-A controversy, it really left the legal issue hanging.

    It is possible — but not certain — that a city or county could deny a business license to a business that has been found guilty of discrimination in the operation of its business. For example, the company refuses to hire gay employees, refuses to serve gay customers, or maybe even if it refuses to ‘do business with’ gay vendors (those who supply the business with its goods or services). An isolated act of discrimination might not support the denial of a business license, but a proven pattern or policy of discrimination might allow the license to be denied. Even then, if the license is denied solely due to anti-gay discrimination, but not if the business were to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, etc., it might be unconstitutional to single out anti-gay discrimination as the sole basis for denying a license. However, to date, it is unclear if Chick-Fil-A has been found guilty of any such discrimination or has a consistent pattern or practice of the same.

    This brings us to the reprehensible statements and beliefs of the individuals who own Chick-Fil-A. For the government to deny the business the right to operate on the basis of the hateful words of its owner(s)is hardly likely to be constitutional. If the business operations are within the law, and if the owners themselves have violated no laws, it is probably a violation of the business’s due process rights, a violation of the owner’s First Amendment rights, a violation of the business’s and the owner’s equal protection rights, etc etc for the business to be prohibited by the government from operating.

    People may or may not like this result, and this result was not discussed in any detail in the above piece, but most likely that is the result that almost any judge would reach (and certainly the US Supreme Court, including Justices like Ginsburg, Kagan, etc).

    Finally, imagine if Alabama or Mississippi denied a license to a business owned by a same-sex gay couple who was married in New York but moved to Alabama to open their business (of course they would be crazy to make such a move, but it’s a good hypothetical). If this same-sex couple promoted same-sex marriage and aggressively criticized as bigots the many ‘religious people’ who oppose same-sex marriage, and because same-sex marriage is actually against the law in Alabama (while such a law remains in effect), should Alabama really be allowed by the constitution to reject that couple’s business license? Contrary to the piece above, this IS a ‘slippery slope’ because ‘hate speech’ is in the eye of the beholder.

    So let’s boycott Chick-Fil-A and condemn them and ask friends not to eat there, and let’s criticize their owners — but let’s preserve the US constitution and not deny them the right to operate a business whose operations have not been found in violation of law.

  27. Jonathan Oz says

    In an earlier post, Daniel Pasteur asserts ”
    “Can you believe Starbucks, Amazon, and Ben & Jerrys can donate money to same sex marriage and no one says anything but when a Christian says what is on their mind they are persecuted in public/”
    I’d like to suggest that NOM and AFA have attempted to boycott just those companies (and others). For some reason, that they’re megalomanical loons might have something to do with it, not many people listen to them.
    I too have questions about governmental banning of Chick-fil-a, but S. Truett Cathy placed the issue in public debate by arguing for the denial of marriage rights for gays and lesbians. How are we supposed to respond? Yes, sir, yes sir, three bags full?

    Read more:

  28. DB says

    Of course, My family and I would never give money to an organization that spends millions of dollars to oppose love, marriage, and family. As a Christian, I am revolted by the blasphemy of this chicken man who tries to use the pure name of God to justify his sinful bigotry and hate. Pseudo-Christians like this chicken man are a major reason that many people are leaving the faith. Most Christians I know, whether heterosexual or gay, try to follow Christ’s teachings of love, acceptance, and non-judgmentalism.

  29. Mike says

    Re: the slippery slope- it applies clearly from a legal standpoint. The first amendment has been interpreted to allow governments to limit speech only on a content neutral basis- If we make a rule that depends on content, we lose this precedent, and replace it with something else.

    Maybe you’re comfortable here because it’s hate speech, but it is still a massive change. The slippery slope comes down to whether the new standard (local government and courts decode what is acceptable, whether hate speech, or whatever standard you choose) will work. I’m not comfortable with a new standard that relies on local governments or courts to decide what is acceptable or not.

    Personally, I’ll never eat there, and will urge my friends to boycott as well. I just don’t want to challenge the business by getting rid of a legal standard that protected, and will continue to protect, gay activists.

  30. Drew Murray says

    This is how I see it. Its rather simple. If cities like Boston and Chicago have non-discrimination laws. Chickfila obviously violates those up to the corporate level. Therefore, Chickfila should not be able to open shop since the company violates the non-discrimination ordinance.

  31. John says


    I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I want to clarify my position. My point is not that an us vs. them mentality is bad. My point is that it is not a useful strategy in this context. We aren’t dealing with politicians. We’re dealing with a business. Since we aren’t dealing with policy makers, the only true value that comes out of this is our reputation.

    As I said either in this thread or the other LCR one, policy is amoral. You don’t get laws passed simply because you are morally right. I don’t know of you have policy experience, but in my professional experience, legislation and rights aren’t won simply by making good logical arguments. Policy making requires coalition building.

    My point is that this boycott risks alienating potential allies for the sake of taking a stand. But taking a stand alone won’t win anything. Your analogy to the civil rights movement overlooks a difference. The motivation on the part of the right is religious. The extent to which racial bigotry was motivated based on the Bible doesn’t even hold a candle to what we see now. In fact, the civil rights movement had very strong support from the faith community. Thus, it was easier to take a stand and draw a line in the sand without running the risk of alienating white allies. Look at MLK’s rhetoric. It wasn’t demonizing white people as a whole.

    But if you look at the rhetoric today, a great deal of the comments from both sides paint this as an issue of gay vs. Christian. When we take actions that are perceived as anti-Christian (and unfortunately many LGBT commentators do that explicitly), we risk alienating moderates with whom we might otherwise build coalitions. When we reduce the discussion so much, potential straight allies will go with the far right if they feel they are being vilified.

    I understand that it is important to take a stand. I just don’t believe that this issue is the one to take that stand on. For better or worse, public policy won’t change without having the numbers. While we have some great politicians that are willing to stand up for what is right, far too many are guided by polls. We have to win each other over first.

  32. Paul R says

    I’m so sick of hearing about this crappy chain. The longer this controversy plays out, the more free press it gives them and the more antigay people (the ones who know how to read, anyway) will eat there. Gays and their supporters will likely be outweighed by fat bigots. And as these many threads have shown, many gays don’t even care.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for punishing stupid corporate actions. But after a point it can be counterproductive, especially when religion and politics are involved. The blowback began almost immediately and could help Chick-Fil-A among its base.

    And no, their sandwiches look nothing like that.

  33. says

    Thank you, Bobbyjoe! I had the same reaction to Glenn Greenwald’s tortured remarks. Suddenly, those politicians who spoke up passionately in favor of equality and against Chick-Fil-A’s extremism were labeled the demons in this because they actually spoke out without weighing each syllable for legal and constitutional perfection. Guess what, folks–there is a process for those things. No CFA’s were burned to the ground. The politicians should be lauded for telling it like it is: Chick-Fil-A’s values are wrong, and their bigotry is not welcome in our neighborhoods.

    And I saw the Vito Russo doc and thought the same thing: there comes a point when you have to say enough and just call out wrongness and put aside the fear and false equivalencies.

  34. Randy says

    I didn’t need to wait for Cathy to publicly donate money against gay marriage, before I boycotted his business.

    I am NOT obliged to spend my money anywhere, and I will not spend it where I don’t want to spend it.

  35. Bingo says

    Yes they’re franchises. But the benefits package is national and that’s where the corporation will finds itself learning what spouse means.

    What’s a boycott? Don’t go. Tell your friends not to go. It’s not a big deal, just not betraying your values. Impact uncertain I know, but some things you do because they’re right. And every time you say “let’s not go there” you educate someone about the reality of hate and hate-money.

  36. Icebloo says

    For all of my adult years I have boycotted all companies and even famous people who are right wing. I don’t want to fund their extremism. I will not watch TV shows, theater productions or movies or listen or buy music by right wingers.

    My boycott list is growing longer – among them are Reba McIntyre, Kelsey Grammar, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J, Anita Baker, Chuck Norris, John Ratzenberger, Sylvester Stallone, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Doris Day, Patricia Heaton, Bruce Willis (who now claims he isn’t a right winger !) & Jay Leno.

    I don’t want any of these losers making any money from me !

  37. acevedo says

    @Daniel Pastour – I see all of these right wing comments about why are the liberals whining about this issue when conservatives never complain about Starbucks or Amazon donating money to gay causes. Really? What about the christian family group that rallied to boycott JC Penney because they have Ellen De Generes as a spokesperson? What about the Westboro church protesting anything remotely gay related? It cuts both ways. The CEO makes a bigoted comment for public consumption so of course he is going to get a response.

  38. Ricco says

    ARI EZRA WALDMAN wrote, as usual, a quite thorough, and I feel, balanced piece. I will not repeat his very excellent points, nor rehash them in my own words. I can hardly articulate those points better.

    I have this, however to say, regarding the issuing of business licenses. Putting aside the fact that politics has always factored into the issuing of permits and licenses; and likewise putting aside the fact that the government has historically played a key role in the violation of the civil rights of minorities, siding with the majority of wrong thinking Americans against minorities, rather than the right side of the constitution, inflicting harm, and financial distress on the businesses of minorities, there has always been precedent among conservative townships of denying permits and licenses to unseemly businesses they felt hurt the community, such as adult book stores, and stripper bars.
    So, apart from the quite reasonable attempt by gays, and their advocates, to do what they can to not patronize businesses who channel millions into the legislative process of denying us our civil rights, essentially providing the funding for our own anti-gay drives, I feel it is reasonable to look at businesses like Chick-Fil-A, as vitriolic and divisive, bringing to a community as unseemly an element as the afore mentioned adult book stores, and stripper bars.
    The argument could even be made that the hateful rhetoric of businesses like Chick-Fil-A is even more unseemly than an adult bookstore or stripper bar as they fuel the kind of hatred that incites some to act violently on hate speech.
    Freedom has never meant anyone person, or entity, doing whatever seems good to them at a given moment; so perhaps it is time to revisit, howbeit quite cautiously, the First Amendment, with the “explicit” idea of inhibiting the kind of speech intended to incite (purposely or inadvertently) others toward the kind of violence many of us have experienced at the hands of people who were only to happy to cast stones, both metaphorically, and LITERALLY!!
    On these grounds denying an openly hateful and divisive business, like chick-Fil-a, from either expanding or coming into ones community, or even closing down a business for the same reasons, is at least, I feel, worth some discussion.

  39. Will says

    Bottom line….don’t eat there, and don’t support them. Boycott them and put the pressure on the franchise to voice there opinions on Mr. Cathy. He brought this on to himself.

    Facebook all your friends, who might eat there why you won’t be eating there again. It’s time to “just say no” to these homophobic nut cases.

  40. Joe De Hoyos says

    Cathay argues that he has a right to free speech, which is true. However he should recognize that in that free speech what he is trying to do is limit our rights as gay people. May God grant him the wisdom to recognize the error of his ways.

  41. jamal49 says

    @BRUCE: Until this happened, I didn’t even know that such a thing as Chick-fil-A even existed and the only reaction I had to Dan Cathy’s idiotic, bigoted comments was “he’s from the South so whaddya expect?”

    However, as for the “there will be no pleasing you and you will always be ready for a fight”, I’d say that depends.

    It depends on how you might like to, um, “please” me.

    And, as for “always ready for a fight”, well, yeah, that’s true. I’ve always had this thing about dumb-ass, straight butt-boys like yourself. I get this really perverse pleasure from taking punks like you, grabbing them by the throat and then, without a second thought, kicking their asses clear into next year.

    Anytime you’re down with that, let me know. We’ll hook up and I’ll show ya what I’m talking about.

  42. Dan Cobb says

    You know, Dan Cathy said that proponents of same-sex rights (like marriage) are tempting God’s judgment on this nation. The last time God’s judgment descended on a “nation” it was Sodom and Gamorrah… you know, where the gays got the entire city squished like a bug.
    He also said that “[gays and other gay marriage proponents] are “shaking their fist at God..” and in case you’re not sure, I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Cathy believes that it is HIS God at whom gays are shaking their fists. These statement are what really makes his opinions odious. They invite action to “protect” this nation –you can just imagine what some of that action might look like to some crazed homophobes. Those are immensely provocative statements. And they should be understood as such. Being against same-sex marriage is one thing, but suggesting that pro-marriage advocates are courting the ruination of this nation is something completely different. To hundreds of millions of believing Christians in this country, that certainly might sound like a battle cry. And who knows, maybe that is exactly what he intended. Even his funding anti-same-sex political activity is not as egregious as his implicit call to arms against gay people.

  43. Lulu says

    I think we should know the religious beliefs and political affiliations of every companies CEO’s so they can be thoroughly vetted by politicians who can then deny or approve their business licenses based on the personal leanings. As the political leaders change, then we can expect the type of CEOs that get approved will change. No Muslim CEO’s (since they are well known anti-gay anti-feminists), no Christian or Catholic ( or any one of ANY religion since i do not know of one religion has doctrine supporting gay marriage) while liberal leaders are in charge…BAN THEM ALL!! Yes, that’s totally reasonable. Hail the New World Order.

  44. GB says

    Hundreds show they are against gay marriage. Those must be the people who don’t write on these sites. Imagine people who don’t have a clue what equality has to do with gay marriage. I think it’s more a gut reaction to them. It doesn’t matter what our “response” is. We can’t sell it or give it away.

  45. Josh says

    “As James Peron noted in The Huffington Post, “allow them to pour capital into a restaurant where no one will eat.” This is the height of pomposity. Of course people will eat there. Don’t flatter your cause. When people are looking for a quick bite, gay equality will be the last thing on their minds. Get real Mary. You think you’ve got so much “power” P.S. You don’t.

  46. Gregoire says

    Lets put this in perspective please. They have 600 or so restaurants. Wendy’s has over 4,000, in comparision. These fat hicks arent going to go back there and eat every meal, and the restaurant lost customers who actually have a brain. When this story passes out of the news cycle, Chick Fil A will have to deal with the people they lost.




  48. Richard Golden says

    I fail to understand why something so simple got so complicated They (Chick-fil-a) have been asked to provide a non discrimination statement that includes LGBT people, and they flat out refuse to do so. Once they provide the statement that says they will not discriminant any persons nor will they fire any one that does not fits there moral stature, they will be free to build & operate,

  49. says

    The CEO of Chick-fil-a can give his money to anti-gay organizations if he wants to. There is nothing wrong with that. It is his Constitutional right to give his money to these organizations and their is nothing illegal about them. He is completely in the right to do so, and I support his alleged actions entirely. Everyone who is boycotting Chick-fil-a needs to just go home and shut their mouths because they are being rediculous right now.

  50. Will says

    The bottom line is this. It was his opinion, he has a right to state it, and he made his money in the USA. You have the right to disagree, you have the right to boycott, and you have the right to write blogs. But, you do not have the right to take away another Americans right to do the things which you are doing. I do not believe he should apologize. I sick and tired of people apologizing for things they say in the United States of America!

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