PLAYING CHICKEN: Why Chick-fil-A CEO Cathy’s Stance on Marriage is Neither a Shock Nor a Free Speech Issue.

In a now-infamous interview with Baptist Press, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy stunned the world with his revelation that, yes, he supported the “traditional” version of marriage: that is, one woman, one man, no divorce, do not pass “Go,” do not collect two hundred dollars.

Except it was neither stunning nor a revelation.

RoosterChick-fil-A was already well-known for being closed on Sunday, ostensibly because of Biblical principles, so unless you had been in a coma for the last, oh, two decades or so, this shouldn’t have surprised you. So why the outrage over Cathy’s distaste for homosexuals? Well, for one thing, the equality movement has come a long way since Lawrence v. Texas was handed down from the SCOTUS in 2003. Public acceptance of gay marriage has risen dramatically, particularly since President Obama recently came out in favor of it. Only in the reddest of red states (and this chicken chain, apparently) is it still socially acceptable to be openly homophobic; everywhere else, it carries the same social penalty as taking a dump on the Thanksgiving centerpiece. Understandably, then, it’s now a bit surprising to hear someone, especially someone with money to lose, so boldly and plainly state that he is a bigot.

Faster than the Hard Right could organize One Million Moms to scream at J.C. Penney’s for hiring America’s best-loved lesbian as a spokesperson, the Hard Left began promoting a boycott of Chick-fil-A’s food, including the famous chicken sandwich: a chicken breast fillet, fried in peanut oil inside a pressure cooker, served on a buttered bun with pickles and a side of loathing.  Some decried Cathy’s statement as “hate speech,” even going so far as to say it wasn’t protected legally.  But someone checked, and no law existed criminalizing being a dbag.  So they just ran with the boycott.

Of course, to the hardcore homophobes, this was precisely the (chicken) nugget they’d been looking for.  Finally, there was a restaurant saying, “Hey, it’s okay to hate your gay neighbor.  And eat all the heart-stoppingly delicious fried chicken you want!  Nutrition is for Communists.”  Opportunistic hardcore neo-con politicians jumped on the bandwagon, too, ready to ride the gravy train all the way to November.  “Hey,” they cried,” He has every right to say whatever he wants, especially when it means he hates all those icky gays.  Also, peanut oil is noms.”  So tempting was the opportunity to suck in hungry Teabaggers that Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee took time off from running the crappiest state West of the Mississippi River to proclaim August 3rd “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

So, in the most obese states in the nation, it has become chick, I mean chic, to gobble fried chicken sandwiches double fisted.  Homophobes can’t seem to eat the darn things fast enough.  They’re turning over their hard-earned (Confederate) money to show just how much they support hating fa…I mean, free speech.

See what Cathy did there?

That’s right.  Take a minute.  Let it sink in.  It appears that Cathy utilized the classic GOP hate baiting technique of saying something grossly offensive to liberals (and non-knuckle draggers in general), then rolling it back a couple of days later, when the effect has already been enjoyed. Because three days (like the symbolism?) after he so proudly declared himself, “guilty as charged,” in opposition to equality for all, he issued a milquetoast statement to the effect of, gee, we’re going to leave that up to the government. Of course, Cathy’s main customer base happens to also be the Teabagger constituency, so by the time he retracted, it was already wall-to-wall rednecks in his restaurants.

He was advertising, suckers. Not only that, but he’s stirred the Teabaggers into a greasy chicken-fueled orgy of defiance and hatred to the point they’re “defending” his right to Free Speech. Shouting with mouths full of fried death and pickles, they remind us lib’ruls of them damned ol’ Dixie Chicks, so there. Down go the waffle fries, down go the Commies, or so they seem to think.

Let me break it down old school: the law doesn’t protect you from private backlash when you say something boorish, bigoted and patently offensive.

Freedom of speech is not now, nor has it ever been, absolute in the United States of America.  I realize the Teabaggers would have a collective coronary (which is coming soon, anyway) if they were ever to actually read the Constitution and the mountains of jurisprudence which have flowed from it. Come to think of it, just reading, period, might have the same result. But the point is, we as a society have agreed for over two hundred years that government has the legal ability to limit the time, manner and place of your speech, as well as limiting the content, if it is found to be pornographic. Besides, the First Amendment protects against government infringement upon free speech. It offers no protection, whatsoever, from negative private repercussions flowing from your exercise of free speech. Just ask the Dixie Chicks.

While Boston and a couple of other forward-looking cities have said, “No, thanks,” to Chick-fil-A’s expansion, the jury is still out as to whether those actions qualify as unconstitutional. Reasonable minds (that leaves you Teabaggers out) can differ, thus it is an issue for judge and jury. And if, indeed, it is found that those resolutions against CFA’s declaration of war on homosexual marriage (and divorce, did you catch that part?), then it follows that formerly-obese Governor Huckabee’s gubernatorial endorsement of CFA may also be unconstitutional. Can’t have it both ways, guys.

As for private citizens’ negative reactions, Chick-fil-A is s*&t out of luck. It isn’t the government sponsoring those boycotts; it’s privately run organizations fighting for equality. They’re spreading the word that every dollar spent in CFA is a dollar handed to other privately-run organizations which fight to withhold legal rights from homosexual Americans.  The homophobes want to cry about the First Amendment when, in fact, nothing about this boycott movement triggers First Amendment protections.

For what it’s worth, I haven’t eaten CFA in decades. They were embroiled in controversy in the nineties over potential violations of child labor law, and there have long been rumors of mistreatment of non-Christian employees.  Plus, fried food will kill you graveyard dead.  This flap will soon resolve itself.  We liberals will continue boycotting; the Teabaggers will continue chowing down on deep-fried chicken.  Guess which one will die off first?