Okay – so, we’ve had a couple of weeks to digest the flap about Chik-Fil-A’s CEO Dan Cathy’s straightforward statements regarding his support for the idea that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. We’ve also considered that he has donated millions of dollars to organizations dedicated to preventing same-sex marriage from becoming legal in several states.
That, of course, has caused a hurricane of hyperbole — groups from the left have accused the company of “selling hate” and groups on the right have claimed that the very idea of religious freedom is under attack. Both claims are, of course, absurd. The mayor of Boston wrote an op-ed piece saying that he no longer wants Chik-Fil-A to establish stores in Boston and right-wing pols and pundits are lining up for photo ops, proudly displaying to-go bags with the big cursive C with a beak.
Let’s be clear: CFA serves tasty chicken sandwiches, not hate. And who a state allows to marry is a civil, not a religious issue. Also, I fully believe that Dan Cathy has the right to express what he feels and spend his money however he pleases, even though I feel he is working on the wrong side of this issue morally. And though the mayor of Boston is free to have his “your kind isn’t wanted here” opinion, he is also on the wrong side of things ethically and politically. Will he now demand the charitable and political donation records of everyone that wants to establish a Beantown business and pass judgment on who gets to stay?
I do not mean to dismiss the discussion around Cathy, Chik-Fil-A, and gay marriage. Far from it. Personally, I think that this has crystallized the issue for a large portion of the population in a way that ballot measures and judicial appeals have never done. It has become a ready litmus test for whether this is an issue that you care about and where you stand on it. And the truly democratic part of it is that people get to vote with their wallets.
Speaking of which, first poll:
But let’s face it, where you buy a chicken sandwich is a pretty disposable decision and carries a moral gravity akin to swearing off the Lifetime Movie Network during Lent. Its disposability is one reason – in fact, the main reason I think – that people feel so empowered to make fierce blanket statements such as, “I’ll never eat there again!” – it’s easy and when it comes down to it, doesn’t really inconvenience you.
So let’s move on to a second scenario. Last week, perhaps in response to the furor around the CFA situation, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he was contributing $2.5 million to defend Washington State’s same-sex marriage law, which is currently facing a ballot challenge.
As you might expect, there’s been some backlash. Notably, the group One Million Moms (whose ~50,000 Facebook members suggests that their name is perhaps an overstatement) has called for a boycott of Amazon.
And so, question 2:
The OMM boycott is like those called for by other similarly-minded organizations against Google, Microsoft, and Starbucks when they all publicly endorsed same-sex marriage in Washington. None of these boycotts had any apparent effects on those companies and I doubt Amazon will take a big hit, either. And I don’t think it’s because gay-marriage opponents are less ardent in their feelings than the CFA-bashers, but that giving up their gmail, software, kindles, or daily java addiction is probably asking too much when it comes to standing on principle.
So to me, this raises the most interesting question of this whole debate (and I use that term loosely) – where is the line on peoples’ willingness to take a stand against a company’s (or company’s owners/management) position on issues?
I’d like to ask the CFA-bashers to honestly evaluate whether they’d give up Google or Amazon or Facebook (or something else they really liked) if the contributions from those companies were flowing in the other direction? Or what if it was the CEO of Merck making funneling millions into “traditional marriage” causes and you just started on their new cancer medicine?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.