Thursday, August 2, 2012

Waitin' for Chikin'

A Chick-fil-A customer squeezes past the line after buying a couple bags of chicken at a Chick-fil-A in Chandler Wednesday

Wednesday was chicken day for conservatives across the country. Or at least in towns with a Chick-fil-A. Back in June, Dan Cathy, COO of Chick-fil-A, told a Baptist radio station that the country was "inviting God's judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than what as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about." 

I'm not sure why anyone was surprised by these comments. Chick-fil-A has a long history of opposition to gay rights. They give money to conservative groups that oppose gay marriage and they don't allow gay people to attend their couple's retreats. So Dan Cathy's comments were not really news. But they did set the blogosphere on fire. 

Several politicians, notably in Chicago and Boston, responded by saying Chick-fil-A was not welcome in their communities. Conservatives rallied to the chain's defense and Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and current FOX bloviator, created Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, to be marked on August 1. 

And Chick-fil-A was appreciated. People waited more than an hour to get into the Chick-fil-A in Chandler. Given that the East Valley of the Phoenix area is heavily Mormon, Republican and Conservative, the number of people waiting to eat deep fried chicken, accompanied by deep fried potatoes and topped off with ice cream isn't really surprising. What did a surprise me a little was that several people waiting for chicken (or chikin' as Chick-fil-A cloyingly calls it) came up to me said they weren't there because they were opposed to gay marriage, and that in fact they support gay marriage but they opposed government officials punishing Chick-fil-A for constitutionally protected speech made by the company's COO. 

That's sort of the conundrum here. It's like the ACLU defending Nazis who marched in Skokie, ILL, in 1977. The ACLU, the organization that does the most to protect the rights of the under represented in this country defending an organization that is bent on denying us those rights. (The ACLU is currently in court in Maricopa County suing Sheriff Joe Arpaio's department for racial profiling.)

No matter how you feel about gay marriage, Dan Cathy has a constitutionally protected right to express his views on the issue. If individuals, or interest groups, want to boycott Chick-fil-A for those comments, that's their right. But Cathy has the right to say anything he wants, regardless of how mean spirited and hateful it might be.