Saturday, July 28, 2012

Chick-fil-A and the First Amendment argument

There is a huge debate going on right now in this country over Chick-fil-A's announcement about their stance on gay marriage.  Supporters of gay marriage have criticized the company for their stance and the right wing has gone bonkers over the left's daring to open their mouths about it.  Two cities are openly trying to stop the company from expanding into their areas, and the blogosphere is going nuts.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from the right is, "How dare the left criticize Chick-fil-A?  That's just inappropriate!  The company has a first amendment right to believe what they want!"

One of the biggest complaints I hear on the left is, "How dare Chick-fil-A be this way?  That's just so wrong!  I'm never eating there again!"

Both attitudes are wrong.

First of all, the right is right - Chick-fil-A does have a right to believe what they want, and they can say whatever they wish about those beliefs.  Yes, the first amendment applies to companies, too.  Anyone who thinks they don't is just wrong.

Now that I've got that out of the way, let's deal with some lesser mentioned issues.

First, if anyone wants to boycott this company (or any other) based on that company's stated beliefs, they've a perfect right to do so, and nobody else has a right to tell them they don't.  You can criticize them for doing so, but you can't tell them they're wrong.  That position is an action taken based on an opinion, and people have a right to do that.

But much of the right's criticism of the left is based on a misunderstanding of where many on the left are coming from.  They aren't just boycotting Chick-fil-A for their stance, they're doing it because Chick-fil-A donates a ton of money to what many on the left feel are hate groups opposing gay marriage.

Again, that's a legitimate position to take, and it isn't unreasonable to choose to take your money and spend it at a company which is more aligned with your own beliefs.

If the right wingers want to then patronize Chick-fil-A to show their support, well then, go right ahead, that is as much their right as it is for the left to do the opposite.

Somehow, it'll all come out in the wash.  If Chick-fil-A wants to take the hit for taking an unpopular stance on something, they've got a right to do that.  It may not be a terribly smart thing to do, or it may turn out to be very smart, given all the free publicity they've managed to garner for themselves!

You just can't manage to pay for that much air time - ask Apple, they do it all the time!

I am similarly middle of the road on the two cities - Chicago and Boston - who are trying to keep the company from expanding there.

Cities have the right to approve or deny building and business permits for companies that want to do business in their jurisdictions.  It's how you manage your city and control what is there and where they are building what kinds of businesses.  Cities are government, true, and as governments, they cannot pre-censor speech.

But denying a company a permit based on speech is definitely unConstitutional.  I can't deny that.  On the other hand, citizens have a right to determine what kind of businesses set up in their cities.  If they lobby their government officials hard enough, those officials would be pretty dumb to  allow access to a business their constituents are dead set against.  Which puts them between a rock and a hard place.

On the other hand, a business would be particularly brain-dead by trying to set up in a town where they aren't wanted - you aren't likely to make much money there.

My money is on Chick-fil-A winning any lawsuits based on refusals in either city, though.  In my book, the Constitution trumps a majority opinion based on pure belief.

That's a protection for all of us, even if we don't like the other guy's opinions.  Especially if we don't like the other guy's opinions!


Anonymous said...

Finally something we can(partially!)agree on! The main point that I would have to correct is that the right isn't upset with boycotting(we employ it all the time! See JC Penny and our boycott of them!)..we say "Bring it on!" We know that CFA will thrive because it has a good business model and they have yummy food!
The rights upset is about mayors saying that they will use(excuse me, abuse!)their positions of power to muscle this company out, not because of actual discrimination but simple opinion. Shame!
But as I said for the most part we some what agree...a little...sort of...(disagree with gay "marriage", but that stands without need of being said, but I will anyway!)

Robert Ahrens said...

Sure, the right wing loves boycotts - when its in their favor! Otherwise, they say exactly what I said they do. Which is hypocritical, but whatever.

Notice though, that the mayors aren't "muscling this company out", but are trying to keep them out. Fine distinction, but it is an important one. Of course, in court, they'd lose either way, as I noted.