Ever since he made his well-publicized threat not to allow the fast food chain Chick-fil-A to open a franchise, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has found himself at the center of a controversy of some magnitude. Menino’s letter has become a viral wonder, racking up condemnation from free speech advocates at roughly the same clip that it gets applause from gay rights activists.
menino letterUnfortunately for Menino, in recent days, the tide has turned against him. The Boston Globe has published an editorial slamming him for ignoring the free speech rights of the owner of Chick-fil-A, and the ladies of The View have condemned the move on much the same grounds.
As such, Menino has taken a rather rare step for a politician and actually recanted his initial fire-breathing statements. From the Boston Herald:
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino repeated today that he doesn’t want Chick-fil-A in Boston, but he backed away from a threat to actively block the fast-food chain from setting up shop in the city.
“I can’t do that. That would be interference to his rights to go there,” Menino said, referring to company president Dan Cathy, who drew the mayor’s wrath by going public with his views against same-sex marriage.[...]
The Herald first reported last week that Menino warned “it will be very difficult” for Chick-fil-A to obtain licenses for a restaurant in Boston.[...]
“Some people might not like these positions, but as mayor of the city of Boston, you can’t run and hide, and I’ll always protect people’s rights,” Menino said. “I’m right out front there and if people don’t like it, I feel sorry for them. But I’m the mayor of Boston and I get elected to make my opinions known.”
It’s a relief to know that Menino will “always protect peoples’ rights,” but at the same time, one has to wonder why Menino raised the threat in the first place if he couldn’t actually do anything. Did he seriously think this type of stunt would persuade anyone of his position, and if so, why? As gay conservative blogger Rek LeCounte explains below, there is more to this issue than a simple conservative Christian vs liberal gay dichotomy at work here:
In fact, I do agree wholeheartedly with the officials’ sentiments—we should not encourage or tolerate discrimination against our fellow Americans. Indeed, many conservatives have opposed discrimination from the days of classical liberalism to the Civil Rights Era—not always well, of course, but the history is there. Regardless of your political persuasion, we should be able to agree that undo discrimination is un-American and should be stomped out wherever found.
Which brings us to Chick-fil-A: what evidence suggests that the franchise discriminates against gay people? Neither the Mayor of Boston nor the officials in Chicago have cited any cases. They have not even suggested that they know of any, anecdotally or otherwise. These publically proposed bans are entirely ideological—that is, the president of a private company that provides private services has expressed an unpopular (in Chicago and Boston) political view. This is no better than if a town in the Bible Belt—where opposition to gay marriage remains high—had decided to ban Target or Bank of America for their support of gay rights. Both actions would blatantly contravene the spirit of our free-speech protections, even if the bans are somehow effected legally.[...]
We aspire to be a nation ruled by laws, not by men. Our elected officials should trust that the residents of their communities are capable of deciding what matters to them regarding food, politics, religion, or any other private matters.
If even a gay man and a gay marriage supporter, albeit one with Republican sympathies, can‘t quite see the point of Menino’s act, then what are the odds of his persuading anyone who was already against him in principle?
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