Earlier this week, Tom Menino, the mayor of the fine city of Boston, launched a fire storm of Facebookian, self-congratulatory image sharing, when a letter he wrote to Dan Cathy, the CEO of Christy fried-chicken slingers Chick-Fil-A, was posted to the city’s Facebook page. It’s received nearly 150,000 likes since then. In the letter, Menino took Cathy’s anti-gay marriage position to task, saying “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail, and no place for your company alongside it.”
Sensing blood in the water, pols throughout the country jumped on the anti-homophobic chicken platform. Chicago alderman Joe Moreno vowed he would block the company’s expansion into a second store in the city, a position backed my mayor Rahm Emanuel. “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward,” Moreno said. Soon thereafter, San Francisco’s mayor Edwin M. Lee tweeted ”Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”
“Yay!” said the nation’s liberals. “Herp derp,” cried the nation’s bigots.
“Wait, can he do that?” asked everyone else, after thinking about it for a few minutes.
Well, yes and no. Menino walked his rhetoric back a few notches yesterday, saying “I can’t do that. That would be interference to his rights to go there.” But should he have said it in the first place? Reasonable people can disagree, but keep in mind that a lot of otherwise reasonable people also believe that angels actually live in the clouds.
A city’s mayor can certainly make it more difficult for a business to open in his or her city, and there’s nothing wrong with expressing a distaste for a company’s politics on the stump, but actually legally barring a company based on statements made by the CEO? That’s not—how do you call it—legal. If we started barring companies with distasteful, and downright evil CEOs from opening anywhere, we’d have a really hard time getting any shopping done ever again. Show me a successful corporation and I’ll show you an asshole at the top of the structure.
Besides, skeptics have said—including many who support gay marriage—that liberals might not be so quick to applaud a move like this if it were, say, a mayor in a southern city declaring he’d “make it difficult” for a, say, Planned Parenthood to open on his watch.
As Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald wrote:
If you support what [Chicago mayor Rahm] Emanuel is doing here, then you should be equally supportive of a Mayor in Texas or a Governor in Idaho who blocks businesses from opening if they are run by those who support same-sex marriage — or who oppose American wars, or who support reproductive rights, or who favor single-payer health care, or which donates to LGBT groups and Planned Parenthood, on the ground that such views are offensive to Christian or conservative residents. You can’t cheer when political officials punish the expression of views you dislike and then expect to be taken seriously when you wrap yourself in the banner of free speech in order to protest state punishment of views you like and share. Free speech rights means that government officials are barred from creating lists of approved and disapproved political ideas and then using the power of the state to enforce those preferences.
He’s got a point there. Logically and legally speaking, critics of Menino and company are correct. He has no standing here, and supporting his political grandstanding while condemning those on the opposite end of the spectrum wouldn’t be fair. Then again, you know what else isn’t fair? A few thousand years of treating a subset of people as inhuman based on who they are in love with. Fuck fair. I think the bad guys have got more than a few sketchy wins in their column based on the expression of discriminatory political views. It’s not intolerance when what you’re arguing against is intolerance itself.
This was obviously political grandstanding by Menino, sure, but there are more than enough politicians throughout the country making the opposite point, that gay couples are less deserving than the rest of us of basic rights, so I have no problem with a liberal-minded mayor spouting off on his own beliefs. The nuts and bolts of “banning” a business because of ideology is obviously more problematic. As a gesture, however, it’s more than welcome.
So what’s the answer then? How about this: I respect all of the critics of this anti-Chick-fil-A movement, because as they say, it could be taken as a slippery-slope toward prohibiting a corporations’ “free speech,” but when we’re talking about fried chicken makers who believe in ancient magical curses regarding what people do with their penises and vaginas, in the year 2012, how about we just go right ahead and drown those fuckers in shame? Because I feel like that type of hatred is probably okay to “discriminate” against, no matter how good your chicken tastes.