Chicago Alderman’s Chick-Fil-A Block Goes National, Pulls in Emanuel
Local politics are starting to invade my national-political-blog reading. It's a welcome break from Mitt Romney's European Vacation, but the immediate reviews on Joe Moreno's attempt to block Chick-fil-A from Logan Square aren't positive.
* Duncan Black: "Yes this is really horrible and stupid. But hey, it's Rahm." [Emanuel, for a lot of reasons too complicated to go into and mostly relating to his time in Washington, is something of a bete noir in the progressive blogosphere. Worth noting here that Emanuel has expressed his objection to Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy's views, but hasn't explicitly supported Moreno's desire to use aldermanic privilege to actually block the store, at least how I read it.]
* Glenn Greenwald, an openly gay constitutional lawyer and civil libertarian:
If you support what Emanuel is doing here, then you should be equally supportive of a Mayor in Texas or a Governor in Idaho who blocks businesses from opening if they are run by those who support same-sex marriage — or who oppose American wars, or who support reproductive rights, or who favor single-payer health care, or which donates to LGBT groups and Planned Parenthood, on the ground that such views are offensive to Christian or conservative residents. You can’t cheer when political officials punish the expression of views you dislike and then expect to be taken seriously when you wrap yourself in the banner of free speech in order to protest state punishment of views you like and share. Free speech rights means that government officials are barred from creating lists of approved and disapproved political ideas and then using the power of the state to enforce those preferences.
* Mary Elizabeth Williams, on the similar situation in Boston:
One almost has to feel a little sorry for Cathy and his Chik-fil-A empire now; the whole thing has blown up like a packet of buttermilk dressing in a microwave. Cathy, after all, is just as entitled to his private beliefs as the next zillionaire. Aside from the fact that Chick-fil-A is always closed on Sunday, there’s no evidence those beliefs have been institutionalized in any way.
* Adam Serwer:
Menino and Moreno have it wrong. Blocking construction of Chik-fil-a restaurants over Cathy's views is a violation of Cathy's First Amendment rights. Boston and Chicago have no more right to stop construction of Chik-fil-As based on an executive's anti-gay views than New York City would have had the right to block construction of an Islamic community center blocks away from Ground Zero.
"We think there's a constitutional problem with discriminating against someone based on the content of their speech," says John Knight, director of the LGBT rights project at the Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
* Kevin Drum: "[Y]ou don't hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway."
* Eric Zorn:
Those who are cheering on these pols ought to imagine the jackboot on the other foot – reactionary public officials in some backwater town denying an entrepreneur the right to operate an ordinary business simply because he’s an open supporter of Obamacare, abortion rights or even marriage equality.
Zorn makes another point that I think is relevant:
And much as I agree with Moreno, Menino and many others on the moral urgency of gay rights, I acknowledge that poll after poll shows the nation is closely split on the marriage issue and that voters have consistently rejected gay marriage at the polls.
To portray the belief that marriage should be reserved for male-female couples only as so extreme that it justifies formal persecution is to misunderstand the contours and trajectory of this debate.
On Facebook today, an acquaintence asked if people would be so tolerant of Cathy if he supported the KKK. The answer is almost assuredly no, but that's what Zorn puts his finger on. Opposition to gay marriage is still, broadly speaking, acceptable. It's unfortunate—and particularly unfortunate for a company that's devoted almost all its moral philanthropy to an organization devoted to the positive effects of marriage, which are as true for gays as they are for straight couples. One thing Cathy is explicit about, and the organization his company has bankrolled, is that stable nuclear families are good for business, because a happy employee is a good employee, and so forth, which would seem to be just as true if the employee is gay.
It's a counterproductive stance, and one of the many reasons I suspect even substantial minority opposition to gay marriage is not long for this world. And perhaps Emanuel and Moreno, even if they are vastly overreaching, deserve some credit for pushing the issue more quickly towards the place where it will eventually end up. But many people who believe gay marriage is a freedom Americans should have believe in other freedoms as well, such as the freedom to oppose it.
All I know is that nobody better ask the owners of Harold's what they think of gay marriage, because then all hell could break loose.
Photograph: normanack (CC by 2.0)