Keep your Free Speech AND your Chicken
People nationwide have spent weeks observing the miasma of bad press following the announcement Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy made in response to a question about whether or not the company was funding known anti-gay groups in an effort to quell same-sex marriage: “Guilty as charged.”
The afternoon of July 31, I was approached by HLNtv.com to write a response piece, to be ready for publishing the following morning, because Aug. 1, thanks to former Gov. Mike Huckabee, was to become, “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” Obviously, as an openly gay writer, I had an opinion and was more than willing to share it (that Cathy should keep his anti-gay funding to himself). But the response to my article surprised me. Not because there were people out there who disagreed with me, but because of the nature of the disagreement.
I expected, of course, the usual religious objections of conservatives and vulgar comments of frat boys, and I got them. What really surprised me though was that the cry I saw most often was, “How dare you try to interfere with free speech!”
This is extremely disheartening for a number of reasons. To begin with, the struggle for equal rights in which this country is currently embroiled is being mischaracterized by many conservatives as simply the LGBT community being up in arms because we aren’t being granted special rights and privileges. Also, we’re having our feelings hurt because people are being mean to us in the news. Let’s get a few things straight, no pun intended.
I certainly wasn’t, nor do I believe anyone else was, criticizing Cathy for expressing his views on marriage. As a voting, tax-paying American, I’m proud and pleased to live in a country where opposing viewpoints are allowed and where the people who possess them are allowed to express them. I think it’s important to remember that sometimes it’s not what one says, but how one says it. Cathy’s proud proclamation felt rather like a slap in the face to his LGBT customers, many of whom are now former customers.
In addition, the LGBT community is not seeking any special rights or privileges. We are seeking the same rights and privileges any heterosexual married couple takes for granted every day. Special implies superior. It is not superiority that we seek; it is equality.
Still, even though those words stung, I would never suggest that Cathy didn’t have the right to use them. The point here, the problem protestors are taking issue with, is that Cathy and Chick-fil-A aren’t simply expressing their opinions and hopes for the future of marriage in this country; they’re using their profits to make sure their agenda becomes reality. Certainly I don’t care for the fact that Cathy doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage, but it is his work to ensure that it doesn’t become a reality for LGBT Americans that offends me; not his words.
That’s what we’re talking about when we encourage our friends not to eat Chick-fil-A. It’s not because Cathy was mean to us. It’s because he’s spending his customers’ money to ensure that his religious views, which are blatantly discriminatory, are written into law. And that affects all of us, as Americans. To write laws today which limit the rights of some Americans, and not others, opens a window to a terrifying oppressive future.