I think it's great that Dan Cathy has so proudly come out against marriage equality. Until recently, there were fair-minded folks who weren't totally convinced Chick-fil-A fed discrimination. Now, even apolitical friends joke about how much they'll miss the tasty sandwiches or peach milkshakes.
The irony is that Cathy was far more dangerous to equality when on the down-low. Now, even non-LGBT people have to think about where their lunch bucks actually stop. And that's uncomfortable for some of us. We'd rather believe that those who quietly oppose equality are less dangerous than those who are pounding pulpits or vociferously enrolling soldiers in the culture war.
Take Pastor Joel Osteen, for example. He squirms like a kid in kindergarten when pressed to share his views on homosexuality. He wraps his claim that being gay is "not God's best" in a warm blanket of love of gay people. He dodges responsibility for his denial of full equality as he sheepishly states "it's not my place to judge, this is just what God says" as if the hammer of discrimination is being lowered from the heavens and there's nothing he can do about it as families are being divided and lives torn asunder. Is this what the Bible refers to as "a wolf in sheep's clothing"?
I've taken some heat recently for a trailer for the documentary Breaking Through, in which openly LGBT elected officials share how they overcame society's messages and live open, fulfilled lives. As part of showing the world we're living in, we include some brief clips of Osteen, Rick Warren, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, and kindred spirits stating their opinions. This is followed by an illustration of the impact this has on kids, who deduce that their lives will have no purpose and commit suicide, and on adults, who conclude that their career choices are limited if they're openly gay.
"They're not the same," a couple of viewers told me. "The 'God Hates Fags' folks hate us, while Pastor Osteen loves us!" OK, but does that matter if they agree that we deserve discrimination? If they're saying, "You're not living the way God wants you to, so you don't get the same civil rights as non-gay people who are also going against God's word," isn't the result the same? Think about it: Whose words would impact you most: a caring person, or a crazy one? To paraphrase Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, which is worse: championing discrimination with hate, or championing discrimination without hate?
Personally, I'm less interested in who loves me than who will stand with me -- or against me -- as we seek full equality. I'd rather not be taken in by someone's kinder, gentler verbalization of discrimination or lulled to complacency by closeted funding of groups that spread lies and invent statistics. So I'm glad Dan Cathy is out of the closet about his support for the harmful, ill-named "gay reparative therapy" and his opposition to marriage equality. Now everyone gets to choose: Would you trade your civil rights for a sandwich?