There’s an angle to this beyond whether or not to eat at Chick-fil-A. The mayor of Boston, Thomas M. Menino, has vowed to block Chick-fil-A’s effort to open an outlet in his city because the restaurant chain supposedly “discriminates against a population.” Likewise in Chicago, Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno told the Chicago Tribune, “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward.” Chick-fil-A wants to open a new restaurant in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue. Moreno has the support of Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who told the Tribune in a statement that “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”
Really? If it’s such a bad investment, why not let Chick-fil-A open the restaurant and suffer a financial loss? It’s one thing for private citizens to “vote with their feet”–to only eat at restaurants whose owners share their values or political beliefs. That’s an individual’s prerogative. Boycotts from either side of the political aisle are consistent with free speech, even if I might question their utility in certain cases.
But it’s outrageous for public officials to use their office to forbid private businesses from setting up shop simply because those businesses are owned by people whose opinions they disagree with.
The editors of the L.A. Times (who support same-sex marriage) responded appropriately:
Menino suggested that it would be appropriate to block the chain from opening in Boston because Cathy’s views amount to discrimination. That would rightly apply if Chick-fil-A were to refuse service to gay customers; the city has a right and an obligation to prevent discriminatory actions against its residents and visitors. But there’s no evidence that any such thing has occurred.
Likewise same-sex marriage supporter Eric Zorn, writing for the Chicago Tribune, notes that while he plans to completely avoid Chick-fil-A, he opposes what Alderman Moreno is doing:
But I also believe in the freedom of expression — in the right of Dan Cathy to give voice to his opinions on social and political matters without fear of reprisal from the government.
And that’s what happening here.
Government officials need to avoid discrimination under the guise of so-called tolerance.