When Chick-Fil-A's Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press "guilty as charged" when asked if his company opposed marriage equality, he probably didn't expect the firestorm that would ensue. Chick-Fil-A has donated millions to the most virulent anti-gay organizations for years, and Dan Cathy even founded the Marriage & Family Foundation. But this time, his statements would go viral, would trend on Twitter for days and become front-page news worldwide. Mayors nationwide would say "we don't want Chick-Fil-A" in their cities (LA's mayor called on Chick-Fil-A to "reconsider" their position).
Predictably, Mike Huckabee made the battle cry on his talk show, calling for "National Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" on August 1, adding to an additional call by the National Organization for Marriage for an "Eat at Chick-Fil-A Day" on July 25. Emboldened by their cursory Biblical knowledge, this was to be expected.
What's saddening and disheartening was the 672,000-plus attendees on the Facebook Event page and the "frenzied" "record-setting" sales. What's maddening is when gay "celebrities" like Antoine Dodson participate in said Appreciation Day and have the sheer Stockholm syndrome to say that gay people "have gone from being bullied" to bullies. What's disorienting is "I"m Gay and I Support Chick-Fil-A". What's infuriating is when pundits like Ann Coulter use Chick-Fil-A Day as "proof" to negate all that LGBT marriage equality organizations have fought for.
I stand with Equality Illinois in supporting the boycott of Chick-Fil-A, as well as their ouster from malls and campuses, but not just because I'm a gay man pissed off at his second-class status. I stand against Chick-Fil-A because it represents the worst elements of this nation. Chick-Fil-A Day brought out the worst in America. The "#straightpride" hashtag shows - for many of the people in those "lines down the block" at America's Chick-Fil-A's, this was not about any verse from Leviticus or Romans. This was about celebrating, as one girl's father put it on Facebook, "no homo day" at Chick-Fil-A.
August 1 was the holiday for all those angry that their bigoted voices are being drowned out by progressive calls for equality. Chick-Fil-A was the mouthpiece for all those who long for the days of sodomy laws, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and institutionalized closets with no escape. Mike Huckabee became the mouthpiece for all those for whom the phrase "civil rights for gays" evokes tears. And how any gay person -- regardless of solidarity with the workers -- could give his money to a company that donates organizations that work to invalidate his own family is beyond me.
Bigotry in America is not a valid point of view we should feel behooved to "respect". We used to marginalize our hate-filled fringe elements in America, not jump to their defense. Framing this as a "freedom of speech" issue is disingenuous -- Americans know that people who believe in racial inequality have 1st Amendment Rights, yet Americans would never expect them to exercise those rights in public. Bigotry simply does not need a voice in America. American values dictate that we keep it out of our malls and campuses -- using democracy (even mayors are elected leaders) and the free market -- as much as we can.
The outrage against Chick-Fil-A shows that many of us live in an America were there really is "liberty and justice for all", where full equality for all Americans is on the horizon. Unfortunately, the rest of America couldn't give a cluck about equality.