The public often learns of a corporation's stance on gay issues, pro or con, when boycotts, picket lines, angry blogs and petitions make the news. There is usually a day or two flare up in the media and then it dies down.
Think Target, Doug Manchester’s Grand Hyatt in San Diego, JC Penney and Ellen Degeneres.
Chick-fil-A is different.
Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, a well-known Christian businessman (restaurants closed on Sundays) said in an interview with the Baptist Press, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”
The usual trajectory would be: Company makes a statement or donation that offends Gays, Gay Rights activists and supporters protest Company, Company either sticks by its guns or back pedals a bit; story dies.
This time around, mayors from Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Pittsburgh stated publicly not just that they disagreed with a CEO's position, Mr. Cathy's, but that they would use their powers to block his restaurants from opening in their city.
That’s when this chicken story grew legs.
When a government penalizes the livelihood of its citizens for stating opinions they don’t agree with, we’re not in Kansas anymore. We’re in Beijing.
All of a sudden I care about this story. A lot.
I went to Chick-fil-A Monday expecting it to be dead and was stunned to see a completely full parking lot, drive-thru lines with cars backed up to Sports Arena Boulevard and a line out the door.
I parked, joined the line at the sidewalk outside the restaurant and by the time I entered the building, I asked people next to me in line, “Are you here for the chicken sandwiches or making a political statement?”
Here is what some people said:
Young woman, t-shirt, shorts, flip flops, long hair. “I am a Facebook addict and I have been dying to post messages about free speech but I have a lot of gay friends, some married, some wanting to be married, and I just don’t want to alienate them so I keep my mouth shut. But I had to do something, so I came here to quietly show my support of free speech.”
A middle-aged man: “This has nothing to do with gay rights and everything to do with free speech.”
A young man: “Just showing my support for free speech.”
I drove past the Chick-fil-A in Point Loma on Wednesday and saw twice as much traffic and people than I saw on Monday. The line went beyond the restaurant’s property line and almost to the AM PM Mini Market next door.
The news is reporting that on Wednesday, “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” the chain grossed $100,000,000 in one day.
What to make of all this?
I am sensing a growing push-back from a large segment of the population against our government’s growing regulations and intrusions into our everyday lives.
When powerful US Mayors basically make a play to regulate and punish thought and speech, something snapped for a lot of people.
It will be very interesting to see how all these quiet activists vote on November 6th.