Glenn Greenwald says it best:
Obviously, it’s perfectly legitimate for private citizens to decide not to patronize a business with executives who have such views (I’d likely refrain from doing so). Beyond that, if a business is engaging in discriminatory hiring or service practices in violation of the law — refusing to hire gay employees or serve gay patrons in cities which have made sexual orientation discrimination illegal — then it is perfectly legitimate to take action against them.
But that is not the case here; the actions are purely in retribution against the views of the business’ principal owner on the desirability of same-sex marriage.
Yes. This is why it is so disconcerting to see supposedly “enlightened” liberal politicians in the US calling for more severe sanctions against Chick-Fil-A, including the refusal by cities and municipalities to grant the fast food chain permission to open more outlets. Such bullying tactics have no place in a democracy, least of all one that claims to place such a premium on the right to free speech.
Greenwald goes on to say:
It’s always easy to get people to condemn threats to free speech when the speech being threatened is speech that they like. It’s much more difficult to induce support for free speech rights when the speech being punished is speech they find repellent. But having Mayors and other officials punish businesses for the political and social views of their executives — regardless of what those views are — is as pure a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech as it gets, and beyond that, is genuinely dangerous.
It is a real shame and surprise to see so many politicians taking the opposing view. It certainly doesn’t do much for the image of “Chicago politicians” to see both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Joe Moreno attempting to punish Chick-fil-A for the opinions of their executives by vowing to deny permission for the company to expand in their city.
If you support what 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. [My emphasis.]
This is one of those times where someone else gets there first and says it better. But I wanted to put on the record of this blog that I agree totally with Glenn Greenwald on this issue. While the cultural and civil rights positions expressed by the Chick-fil-A CEO are to my mind socially regressive and (more importantly) completely irrelevant to Chick-fil-A’s success as a corporation, he should be allowed to say what he says, and the public have the right to vote with their feet and choose not to patronise the restaurant chain if they feel strongly about the matter. Beyond that, no more needs to be said. Elected politicians certainly have no right – moral, constitutional or otherwise – to use their powers to bully or discriminate against individuals or companies with whom they happen to disagree.