Political opponents of Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay marriage seem to be having trouble with upholding the limits of government that they are supposed to represent. The fast food company stirred up controversy recently when on July 2, gay rights advocacy group Equality Matters published a report detailing some $2 million in donations Chick-fil-A gave to anti-gay marriage groups. The same day the report was published, Chick-fil-A’s President Dan Cathy stated that his company is “guilty as charged” when asked if the organization supported the biblical definition of marriage. This nonchalant statement has evoked criticism from several political officials who are not too happy with the company speaking its mind. Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston said he does not want the company in his city, stating that “unless they open up their policies,” it might be hard for Chick-fil-A to get the necessary licenses needed to operate in the Boston area. Menino is joined by mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, who have both voiced opposition to Chick-fil-A operating within the city unless it changes its stance. Within this dialog exists an intrinsic problem of defining what powers government officials have.
These elected officials seem paradoxical in the sense that they are discriminating against a private corporation for its private views. It seems like an abuse of government power for these public officials to punish a private corporation by threatening to keep it from engaging in business. Chick-fil-A’s president, and to a larger extent the company as whole, has the right to express its views on gay marriage just like any other citizen in this country. These pubic officials threatening to block Chick-fil-A’s presence in the free market is a case of irresponsible government. Just because the officials do not like Chick-fil-A’s stance does not make it justifiable for them use their powers to keep the business from operating in their municipalities. This is an issue of procedure rather than one based on morality. The government is not designed to work against the First Amendment in the way it is playing out in this case. The idea of res ipsa loquitur, or “let the thing speak for itself,” comes up in this controversy. Government officials should let Chick-fil-A’s statement speak for itself in the forum of public opinion where the consumer, not the government, decides what is acceptable. Government is the representation of public will and should not be mistaken with the spirit of law represented in the Constitution. A murky precedent is being set when public officials threaten an organization because of what it believes in. Chick-fil-A should be able to operate where they please, regardless of its private political views which are protected by the Constitution.
As for the issue of gay marriage in general, there is a return to the idea of res ipsa loquitur in the public forum. We as a nation have conflicting views as to what defines marriage and are nowhere close to figuring out what is the right answer. Same-sex couples should have access to the legal benefits of marriage, but not the same title of being married. I have no qualms about same-sex couples but do not agree with granting the title of marriage to couples because of tradition and other personal beliefs. Upholding the right to express private beliefs should not be punished like public officials in Boston and Chicago are threatening to do. It is your right as an American citizen to believe in what you want without fear of punishment, plain and simple.