Conservatives and Liberals Defend Chick-fil-A

Well, we knew conservatives would be outraged by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s and Ald. Joe Moreno’s plan to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in Logan Square, due to the company’s anti-gay marriage activism. And, of course, they are. Human Events calls the pair “totalitarian politicians.”

But Emanuel and Moreno are receiving equal condemnation from liberal commentators, who believe in the right to gay marriage, but believe equally in the right to free speech. Here’s what a few of them have to say.    

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. 

    -- Glenn Greenwald, Salon 

[T]here's really no excuse for Emanuel's and Menino's (sic) actions. If you don't want to eat at Chick-fil-A, don't eat there. If you want to picket them, go ahead. If they violate the law, go after them. But you don't hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway.

On a related note, what makes this whole situation so weird is that Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy has always opposed gay marriage. He's a devout Southern Baptist, just like his father, who founded the company. The place is closed on Sundays, for crying out loud. There's just nothing new here.

    -- Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

[D]enying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.

    -- Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy

It wasn’t smart for Moreno to pick this fight. It was even less smart for Emanuel to get involved. Emanuel is a national figure, and his support for denying Chick-fil-A’s zoning request made this story national news. Last week, the company was on the defensive for president Dan Cathy’s homophobic statements. Now, Chick-fil-A looks like First Amendment martyr, and the victim of a mayor people are always looking for a reason to dislike.

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