I won't ever give my business to a Chick-fil-A, and I know that many LGBTs and our allies will also stay away. But Chick-fil-A has every right to be in business, in the city of Chicago and elsewhere. I would never want their bigotry to keep them from getting a business license.
I respect Chicago Ald. Proco Joe Moreno immensely for his courage in trying to fight the bias of Chick-fil-A by stopping them from building in his ward. I also applaud Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino for their comments against the chain. I have a list of other anti-gay companies if you feel like making more public statements about homophobia, and I would also appreciate your lobbying for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress. But it is time we step back and assess what is the correct way to respond to Chick-fil-A's corporate bile.
Imagine if the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter existed in the 1950s and 1960s:
@RosaParks: "These ignorant #racists need to learn manners. I am sitting right here, right now. #BoycotttheMontgomerybuses!"
@Greensboro: "This #Woolworth lunch counter is going to be occupied NOW. Come on down to join in."
Then everyone spread the news on your social networks. Add in a mix of politicians joining each side of the bandwagon, racists throwing sticks and stones, religious groups justifying separate water fountains, and the list goes on.
This may have caused even wonderful, rational people to perhaps go beyond what the legal response would be, just to please their constituents. In order to confront the bigots, they may have stooped to their level. In fact, many people on both sides did resort to dramatic response, and some on the right side of history gave their lives for justice.
But the best answer to the Woolworth company's racism in the U.S. South was to sit-in and protest, not to deny them the right to exist. If a company is racist or sexist in its hiring or service, then the answer is to sue them -- and to picket, boycott, and spread the word.
Windy City Times has been covering the bigotry of Chick-fil-A for more than 12 years. Our first report was Feb. 9, 2000. Our news coverage:
If you're a guy who likes to wear an earring, don't bother applying for work at any of the nation's 850 Chick-fil-A restaurants, the founder and chairman of the company said Jan. 31, reports The Mobile Register. "If a man's got an earring in his ear and he applies to work at one of my restaurants, we won't even talk to him," S. Truett Cathy said after a speech to more than 300 people at the University of Mobile. After the lecture, Cathy was asked if he would hire gay people at his fast-food restaurants. He hesitated, then said, "It depends on the circumstances." That means he would have to consider the applicant's appearance, history and reputation, he said.
There was more where that came from, but somehow the most recent comments by Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy were what set off a firestorm. Cathy told the Baptist Press his goal is to operate the fast-food chain "on Biblical principles." He said the company had an established position against marriage equality.
Let us set aside for now the comments about the Bible that they use as a crutch, despite the really horrible stuff the Bible sanctions (slavery), and despite the fact that the meat lover's paradise is likely not following the Bible's food preparation and serving instructions.
If the company follows the law, they should be allowed to exist. I do have some questions about whether they indeed are operating within the law. For example, does their corporate policy discriminate against potential gay franchise owners? If it does, there should be a lawsuit (not that any gays would want to buy in now). Does the corporate culture result in discrimination in hiring or service? If so, then by all means sue.
Chick-fil-A has the right to follow a Bible that authorizes the killing of children who talk back to their parents. They just can't actually do that. They have a right to oppose same-sex marriage -- and I am really glad that they are boasting about it, because many company leaders feel the same way but hide their positions. That means our gay dollars go to haters and we don't even know it.
We absolutely can't have a religious or moral litmus test for getting a business license. Because in the past (or a potential future), that would mean some LGBT businesses might not qualify.
So go on, Chick-fil-A, act like the sky is falling just because two people want equal access to marriage. But watch out if you step over any legal lines in franchise rights, hiring, or service.
In the meantime, my friends and I will flock to another restaurant.