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Chick-fil-A gives us the freedom of choice

My gay friend said he read about Wednesday being "Chick-fil-A Day" and felt as if he had been kicked in the gut.

The reaction, sad but succinct, helped crystallize my perspective on a complex issue that deserves to be examined from both sides.

For those not paying attention, Chick-fil-A chief executive officer Dan Cathy has repeatedly said his is a Christian business. As such, he defines marriage as solely between a man and woman.

His latest declaration on the subject set off a new round of angry reactions led by the mayors of Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, who advised Chick-fil-A not to seek new franchises in their cities.

Led by a call to action from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Chick-fil-A fans flocked to the restaurants Wednesday to show their support. On the other side, some gay rights advocates called for people of the same sex to kiss each other inside Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide today.

As a fan of the food, a one-time Chick-fil-A employee and someone who appreciates the charitable efforts of local franchise owners, I'm compelled to be balanced.

The mayors went too far in their admonishments. As the American Civil Liberties Union notes, there is a "constitutional problem with discriminating against someone based on the content of their speech."

What's next? Will the mayor of some Bible Belt city block Starbucks because it supports gay marriage? That's not America, land of the free.

Still, I understand the outrage of those who support gay rights. You can argue that Chick-fil-A is being unfairly singled out, and that a lot of corporate leaders may agree with Cathy but don't publicly express those views.

However, therein lies the point. Americans have the right to hold personal views we may not share, but Cathy's public stance has crossed a line and gone beyond his religious beliefs.

"As it relates to society in general, 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,' " Cathy said in a radio interview.

The righteous self-indignation proves hurtful on so many levels.

Cathy keeps backing away from statements when fervor rises. The company released a statement saying it intends "to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."

That can't make up for Cathy's kick in the gut. By opposing gay marriage, he's either promoting an antigay agenda or taking advantage of the controversy as a marketing tool.

I can't accept either one.

Although all manner of biblical quotations can be cited when discussing gays and gay marriage, I always start with "Love your neighbor as yourself." Again, I support Cathy's unalienable right to embrace his religious beliefs, but there is no love in the condemnation he offered about God's judgment.

Without some expression of tolerance from Cathy, I can't see myself continuing to eat at Chick-fil-A. Everyone is free to make their own choices, and I would be guilty of my own self-righteousness if I called for a boycott.

But I've always said blacks can't demand equality for themselves and deny it for gays. For now, those are the words I'll live by.

That's all I'm saying.

Chick-fil-A gives us the freedom of choice

08/02/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 2, 2012 4:30am]
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