In my early 20s, I was pro-choice and opposed to gay marriage. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m pro-life and more supportive of gay marriage. Sometimes our views change. It happens all the time. The important thing is that we are free to have views and voice them.
When Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy publicly denounced gay marriage last month, the mayors of two major American cities let everyone know that the fast food restaurant was not welcome in their towns. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino threatened to block the construction of a new Chick-fil-A. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made similar statements, echoing the sentiments of a local official.
Even many of those outraged by Cathy’s comments would agree that he was simply exercising his free speech rights. But some thought these mayors were also exercising their free speech rights. They were not. What they were attempting to do is the antithesis of free speech.
Individuals who are offended by Cathy’s comments are free to avoid Chick-fil-A. They are free to speak out against Chick-fil-A. This is how America’s system of government is supposed to work. This is how the First Amendment works. This is how free markets are supposed to work.
But for the government to prevent someone from operating a business based on his personal or political opinions is a direct violation of free speech. It’s certainly anti-free market. I’m aghast at how many people can’t make this important distinction.
Imagine that a Muslim man owns a convenience store. Now imagine that he, too, like Dan Cathy, has some rather unfavorable views of homosexuals. Does anyone think this Muslim man’s local government should prevent him from selling Doritos and cigarettes because of his views?
Imagine that a homosexual man opens a store in a small Southern town. Now imagine that the local government attempts to shut down his business simply because he is homosexual. This would be tragically wrong and un-American. Imagine this same storeowner publicly expressed pride in his sexuality. Does anyone — even the most conservative Christian — believe the government should be able to take away his right to do business just because he expressed his opinion?
There are few, if any, conservative Christians who would think this proper. However, after Dan Cathy made his comments, I discovered countless liberals who had no problem doing the same thing to Dan Cathy. Liberals who are trying to make Cathy out to be some sort of fascist need to take a good, hard look in the mirror.
But there were sane liberals on this issue. The American Civil Liberties Union quickly denounced those who wanted to prevent Chick-fil-A from doing business. One of the more lucid voices on the left during this controversy was Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer, who wrote:
Blocking construction of Chick-fil-a restaurants over Cathy’s views is a violation of Cathy’s First Amendment rights. Boston and Chicago have no more right to stop construction of Chick-fil-As based on an executive’s anti-gay views than New York City would have had the right to block construction of an Islamic community center blocks away from Ground Zero. The government blocking a business from opening based on the owner’s political views is a clear threat to everyone’s freedom of speech — being unpopular doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. It’s only by protecting the rights of those whose views we find odious that we can hope to secure them for ourselves.
I somewhat agree with Dan Cathy’s controversial statement. From a religious perspective, I find gay marriage to be absurd.
But the gay marriage debate in the United States, in stark terms, is not primarily religious. It is a legal debate. If a same-sex couple wishes to enjoy the same tax, contractual and other legal advantages that heterosexual married couples are afforded by their governments, I think it would be unjust to deny them that. What makes us equal in the eyes of God is beyond our control. What makes us equal before the law is not.
Many Americans disagree with me on this. Until a few months ago, the president of the United States disagreed with me on this. That’s fine. In this country we are free to debate such subjects.
And we are free to debate them without fear of government persecution. An American selling chicken sandwiches is free to say anything he likes. We are also free to say anything we like about what he says. But no government should be able dictate what any of us is allowed to say.
Jack Hunter (also known by his radio moniker the “Southern Avenger”) is a frequent guest on Fox Business, Michael Savage’s nationally syndicated radio program “The Savage Nation” and a frequent guest host on “The Mike Church Show” on Sirius XM. Hunter is the co-author of “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” by Sen. Rand Paul, assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his book “Now or Never: How to Save America from Economic Collapse” and writes the Paulitical Ticker blog for the Ron Paul 2012 Campaign.