Boston’s Mayor Plays Chicken With Anti-Gay Food Franchise

by Steve Weinstein
Tuesday Jul 24, 2012

Boston's mayor, Thomas Menino, may have his heart in the right place. But his stance to oppose in every way possible -- official and otherwise -- a restaurant franchise from opening in his city is un-American and ultimately a "lose" for our side.

Menino is angered and disgusted by the comments made by the owner of Chick-Fil-A opposing marriage equality. The owner is quite outspoken: As reported here, he believes "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."

Yes, this is despicable. The owner, Dan Cathy, also has been documented as contributing heavily to anti-gay organizations such as Focus on the Family. Predictably, the National Organization for Marriage and such groups are praising him for his outspoken stance.

I find Cathy as repugnant as the next person. But I also do not believe that his personal beliefs are enough to allow a public official to disallow a company from opening in his city. If the franchisee gets the proper permits, pays the rent, and observes local laws -- including no hiring discrimination based on sexual preference or gender identity -- then he or she should have every right to open in Boston.

I say, let the market decide; not a public official.

The reasoning is simple: If Cathy has not been found to be discriminatory in his hiring practices or his customers, he is entitled to his opinions. Chick-Fil-A trumpets its "Christian values" by apparently piping in Christian music (enough of a reason to avoid at all costs!) and closing all franchises on Sunday.

These are not, however, enough reasons to oppose an enterprise from opening. Anecdotally, from looking around on the Internet, the individual franchises don't seem to be guilty of any prejudice against LGBT workers. The comments I've read appear to be disingenuous enough not to be company plants. Of course, one never knows, although there do not appear to be any complaints that I can find.

But there's another, more important reason.

Such a stance is a slippery slope that cuts both ways. If Cathy is prevented from practicing legal commerce because of his views, so could a mayor of a very conservative city invoke Menino when opposing a company with the opposite stance.

Thus, a mayor would be within his rights to oppose a vocally pro-gay rights company, such as Starbucks, say, or Apple. If we agree Menino is right, so is this theoretical mayor.

I've never liked this hardcover tactic by a big-city mayor. It smacks too much of bullying for my liking. I also believe, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Supreme Court, that the most obnoxious abusers of free speech really draw the line between those who would fight for the First Amendment down the line and the wishy-washy.

I've often stated my opposition to censorship of any kind -- on the right or the left, pro- or anti-gay. That goes double for any business enterprise.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


  • , 2012-07-26 06:50:16

    I find it refreshing that he has taken such a stance and will make it difficult for Chick-Fil-A to open in Boston. It is great to see a politician not be so PC. In the long run there are legal avenues CFA can explore- just like us gay folk have to explore legal measures for our rights. I get the argument you are making, but I feel it is a little misplaced- in these days - in this time - we need to give them the same struggles they give us... also if you really think about it- how the company presents itself to a community will definitely affect its employees. They have gay employees and their stance... the way they parade their personal beliefs as a company mission statement ... makes the work environment hostile and one that can be difficult for them to function in. In days when the economy is so bad- where work is scarce, I would think these gay employees would rather stick it out than resign their employment. So yeah they are practicing discriminatory practices in their work environment and therefore are entitled to all the bad press and hurdles to make it difficult for them to continue.

  • , 2012-08-17 16:52:06

    On the contrary, he was being VERY "PC."

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