by Howard J. Ross, founder & chief learning officer, Cook Ross Inc.
Yesterday was Chick-fil-A appreciation day. Responding to the declaration by former Arkansas governor and failed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, people stood in line at restaurants all over the country to buy food from the restaurant.
Why? Because Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy has taken a hardline stance against marriage equality. In a recent interview, Cathy was quoted as saying, “I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say 'we know better than you 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.” The “Appreciation Day” was Huckabee’s attempt to marshal support that counters the millions of people (myself included) who were planning to never step into a Chick-fil-A again as long as they continued to not only make statements like this, but also to give millions of dollars to the support of anti-gay initiatives around the country.
I’m not going to take the time yet again to elaborate all of the reasons why Cathy is wrong on his bigoted position against marriage equality, except to say that one might call it a bit presumptuous and, dare I say it, even “prideful and arrogant” to claim to know what God thinks, especially in regard to civil and not religious marriage. Cathy can believe whatever he wants, no matter how ignorant and bigoted it is. That is what religious freedom is about. And he can say what he wants. That is what free speech means.
But let’s be clear. This issue has nothing to do with free speech. Cathy can say whatever he wants with legal impunity. Nobody will jail him, sue him, or legally harm him for making these comments. But we do live in a capitalist society with a free marketplace. And people have every right to choose who they want to buy their food from. If people decide they would like to eat at, let’s say the MacDonald’s next door because they support equal rights for all people, rather than give their money to Chick-fil-A so that they can turn around to use to it to fight equal rights, that is our prerogative.
But I think I am softening. As I saw the photos last night of the long lines in the restaurant I was inclined to go find one to stand in. Not to buy chicken however. Instead, why don’t we all go fill the lines in every Chick-fil-A restaurant we can find. Have long lines that snake down the street and around the corner. And while you’re in line, turn to the person in front or behind and tell them why you believe that a country that prides itself on freedom and equality should allow people to marry whomever they like…that’s it’s nobody’s business but theirs.
And then when you reach the counter, place your order. Tell them “I would like to ask for a company that stops campaigning against freedom and equality,” and then walk away and leave Chick-fil-A to rot in the annals of history along with the Woolworth in Greensboro, NC, or Lester Maddox’s restaurant in Atlanta as proprietors not of good food, but of hate.