A high school friend used to say, “Life is a shit sandwich and I take a bigger bite every day.” There’s a lot of cynical wisdom in that quote. The Shit Sandwich du Jour is the Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Deluxe and it’s leaving a shitty taste in everyone’s mouth.
I think Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s gay marriage stance is wrong about the “biblical definition of the family unit” and quite frankly inconsequential and stupid. His position is a moral, corporate, and downright mean-spirited cock up if you’ll pardon the expression. The First Amendment allows me to say that just as it allows him to say what he wants, people to hold bigoted Appreciation Days, and respond with Gay Kiss-In Days. Freedom is messy and fractious.
Sure, his statements are about civil rights for gays, separation of church and state, and First Amendment guarantees, but some ancillary points are worth noting.
Cathy is a private person, but as King of Chickendom he is also the embodiment of the much-disputed corporate person. His cluck is the voice of Chick-fil-A. It is the voice of an employer forbidden to discriminate. The company is closely held so his voice and actions must also protect his investors’ valuable “fil-A’s”. When he speaks, his personal opinions become the opinions of the corporation. These things may not be direct constitutional issues in Chick-fil-A’s case, but they muddy the waters.
Like celebrities who slavishly court publicity, it is disingenuous to be surprised when the paparazzi and protesters show up. To his credit, Cathy is reaping what he sowed, but celebrities sometimes go all Justin Bieber on the paps’ asses and then whine about the intrusion they invited. Cathy could do the same if the fire and brimstone become too hot for him.
Cathy demonstrates the notion that private comments are well, private, but that celebrities, CEOs, and the powerful in the public eye give up reasonable expectations to exercise full First Amendment rights by default. Though changing, that is the foundation of American libel and defamation law. It may not be a fair legal position, but it is a practical one. Absent it, no one could question public figures because of the chilling effect of libel or defamation suits from every statement the public and powerful might dislike – truth be damned.
The protests will go on, like the core issue, until the public loses interest or gay marriage becomes law. However, Cathy should watch his gizzards and livers closely. With the increased scrutiny comes business-effecting public opinion duels, closer looks at the legality of corporate culture and behavior, and strict adherence to laws. As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama can tell you, in temperate personal opinions often come back to haunt you.
People should feel free to express their opinions but keep their protests in context. With all the hubbub on both sides we’re making chicken sandwiches and the religious zealot who sells them symbols for a serious and sober debate. The debate is becoming a series of chicken jokes. If you asked random protesters for gay marriage specifics most would parrot the stale lines they already spew plus add a mini-restaurant review of Chick-fil-A.
A little humor makes the bitter medecine go down, but it’s time to get back to civil rights for homosexuals.