Last Monday, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy admitted to the sandwich chain's long-standing policy to support so-called Christian (and specifically anti-gay marriage) values.
"Guilty as charged," he said, and that shot heard 'round the Internet soon sparked furious protests against the restaurant and equally fervent proclamations of support.
In Mountain View, a small California city in the typically-liberal Silicon Valley, residents were already unhappy that the city council had approved zoning permits for a Chick-fil-A location on the busy El Camino Real. Dan Speakman and his husband Richard posted an online petition to raise the $1,000 necessary to challenge the zoning permit, citing concerns over increased traffic and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Cathy's comments only added fuel to the fire.
"It could be Mother Teresa that owns it, and it would be a bad place," Speakman told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But because it was a bunch of bigots, it gave us an extra nudge."
"To be honest, if it wasn't a Chick-fil-A, we probably wouldn't be standing up and opposing it," Speakman told the Mercury Daily News.
They raised the money in just 14 hours, halting the approval process.
Now, at least two other cities--major ones--are rolling out the unwelcome mat.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has promised to block Chick-fil-A's efforts to open a store near the city's popular Freedom Trail.
“That’s the Freedom Trail," Menino told the Boston Herald Thursday. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
Boston, and Massachusetts, prides itself on being at the forefront of progress, whether that be the site of the first shots of the American Revolution, or becoming the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004.
"Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston," Menino said. "You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”
The mayor followed through on a promise to voice his disapproval directly to Cathy and Chick-fil-A, sending a strongly worded letter of disapproval to the company president.
Menino's comments have fielded some backlash, with opinion pieces and editorials criticizing the mayor for trying to suppress free speech.
"The Muppets are well within their rights to shun Chick-fil-A after the chain restaurant donated to anti-gay groups and its president, Dan Cathy, made statements implying a strong, biblically-based stand against same-sex marriage," the Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote. "They're private, um, puppets. But public officials have a responsibility to carry out their ministerial tasks fairly and evenhandedly — and to uphold the principle of free speech — whether or not they like a business executive's social or political stances. We disagree heartily with Cathy, but are far more troubled by the reaction of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who vowed to block Chick-fil-A's effort to open an outlet in that city."
"But which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license."
But any negative reaction hasn't stopped the Alderman of Chicago's 1st Ward, in the trendy Northside neighborhood of Logan Square, from following in Menino's footsteps.
"If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don't want you in the 1st Ward," said Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Calling Cathy's comments "bigoted" and "homophobic," Moreno promised to block Chick-fil-A's permit request for a restaurant in his ward. Chicago allows "Aldermanic privilege," meaning the city council will almost undoubtably defer to Moreno's wishes for his ward.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed Moreno as well, saying in a statement that Chick-fil-A would be unwelcome in his city.
"Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values," he said. "They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty."
And as for First Amendment worries? Moreno says there's nothing to worry about.
"You have the right to say what you want to say, but zoning is not a right," he said.
Since the Baptist Press first published Cathy's controversial comments, Chick-fil-A has tried to do damage control.
The company released a statement, on Facebook, backing its "biblically-based principles [in] managing" the business.
"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena," the statement reads.
The Jim Henson company has also pulled its toys from Chick-fIl-A restaurants.
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