Chicken scraps

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2012

  • I joined hosts Mark Newgent and Andrew Langer of RedMaryland on their BlogTalkRadio show Monday evening to talk about the Chick-Fil-A furor, the efforts of politicians in Boston and Chicago to use regulatory permissions to push the company around, and the resulting lessons for political and economic freedom; I went on to discuss my efforts to rally opinion in favor of Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law. You can listen here or here (UStream).
  • Relatedly, here is Ted Frank’s comment: “Every chicken sandwich you don’t buy deprives anti-gay organizations of approximately $0.0001. Probably less than that. Or, you can do what I did and donate some real money that might actually make a difference to [Marylanders for Marriage Equality] to campaign about the gay marriage initiative on the ballot in that state.”
  • “Unwise…won’t work.” The New York Times, oft indignant on other topics, seems rather tepid in criticizing the various city halls’ attacks on speech;
  • No united flock: the restaurants in question, many run by strong-minded independent franchisees, seem to be politically a various bunch themselves.
  • Speaking of non-united flocks, I think the ACLU’s Illinois affiliate may have a thing or two to teach its Massachusetts affiliate. Following the Chicago alderman’s threats to block the restaurant, ACLU of Illinois attorney Adam Schwartz was both forceful and correct: “what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words. … We believe this is clear cut.” On the other hand, Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts strangely dismissed the Boston controversy as “little more than a war of words – which is protected by the First Amendment as core speech,” as if the Mayor had merely subjected the sandwich chain to a volley of verbal abuse, without more. Perhaps Ms. Rose wrote the piece while glancing only at Mayor Menino’s official letter to Dan Cathy, which stays generally within “war of words” territory, and was unaware of the July 20 coverage in the Boston Herald, which quoted Menino thus: “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies.” That’s no more a mere “war of words” than “If you run that editorial, I’ll have you arrested.”
  • More coverage: Tom Palmer Cato podcast; Hans Bader of CEI First Amendment analysis; David Boaz, Roger Pilon and Brad Smith at Politico; must-read Glenn Greenwald column; earlier here, etc.
  • And: “By handing Chick-fil-A a valid grievance, Menino and his ilk rallied popular support for the company” [Josh Barro, Boston Globe]
  • Yet more: Pressure group friendly to Chicago alderman filed antidiscrimination complaint based on chain execs’ speech [Volokh; HuffPo ("negotiation")] Some further thoughts on where the First Amendment’s relevant in the whole affair, and where it isn’t [Jim Huffman, Daily Caller]

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In the news, August 4 | Maryland for All Families
08.04.12 at 12:56 pm

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1 Brat Magursky 08.02.12 at 4:47 pm

I am not surprised to see a strong support for same sex marriage among members of the legal community. It seems to me they see it as a purely equality issue rather than a moral one but when has morality ever figured into a legal position (just because it’s right doesn’t make it legal and just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right) but after all the lofty cries from the Bar’s Ivory Tower echo through the land 1 fact remains – only lawyers can argue in the pro for 1 client one day only to argue con the next for a totally different client (Why didnt you climb up that ladder to get the cat out of the tree Mr Fireman (bad ol Fireman)! vs The ladder broke when you climbed it to get the cat out of the tree (bad ol ladder maker and fire department)! FYI – the strength of the legal argument (advocacy) is directly proportionate to the legal fee paid!!

2 Ron Miller 08.02.12 at 6:53 pm

Ted Frank: Can’t we do both? Why are you making us pick?

I’m not sure it is the profits that are at issue with your chicken sandwich. I think it is the principle of the thing.

That guy is free to take any position he wants. I don’t begrudge him that. But I get to buy chicken sandwiches wherever I feel like.

3 Max Kennerly 08.02.12 at 9:46 pm

But what about the rights of vegan bigots? Or homophobes worried about trans fats? What are they supposed to do in this controversy, just sit on the sidelines while everyone else gets to take a stand and make a lasting, important contribution to their society by buying or not buying cheap fried chicken that was briefly marinated in pickle juice?

4 Ed 08.03.12 at 7:58 am

Max,
Homophobes? Bigots? Really?
The CEO of a large company, a known Christian, was asked his opinion on marriage. He replied as one would expect. Honestly, I would have been more shocked if he had not replied as he did.
Therefore, his opinion is obviously shared by all employees and patrons of the independently owned and operated stores.

5 antiredistributionist 08.03.12 at 4:55 pm

I call BS on Frank’s use of the term “anti-gay” to describe any organization that supports traditional marriage.

6 John 08.04.12 at 10:21 pm

Wait, wait, let me get this straight: the mayor loses his cool (or his mind) briefly, and makes an intemperate and clearly ridiculous statement. Later, he clarifies it in writing. This brief verbal nonsense is so strong that it would cause a multi-million dollar corporation to believe that it is actively being discriminated against. Do I have that right?

What’s the difference between this and hate-crime speech?

7 Walter Olson 08.04.12 at 10:45 pm

John>There are at least four reasons why Menino’s statement was not ignored as a bit of heat-of-the-moment hyperbole. The first is that a Chicago alderman almost immediately made a similar and very explicit threat. The second is that in cities like Boston and Chicago, if a person in political authority says company X is going to have trouble with its licenses, it is widely assumed that from that point on the license-granting bureaus will make trouble for the company (and in ways that are not always easy for the press to monitor and check). The third is that a not-insubstantial body of opinion (though not, fortunately, most leading outlets of liberal and civil-libertarian commentary) agreed that this was what Menino was doing and *applauded* it. And the fourth is that Menino did not retreat until he had been assailed by many commentaries from those civil libertarians and others. I agree with you that “discrimination” is not a good word to describe this process: “retaliation for First-Amendment-protected speech” and “denial of the rule of law” are better.

Anti-redist>I do not speak for Ted, but I suspect that he would concede that, say, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is not usefully described as an anti-gay group if you concede that the Family Research Council, whose Peter Sprigg called two years ago for criminalizing homosexual activity, *is* an anti-gay group.

Brat>Not sure what you mean about lawyers neglecting the moral dimension of this issue. I certainly do see it as a moral issue: recognition of same-sex marriage is a moral, not just practical, advance for society. But then I’m not a lawyer so maybe I wasn’t included in your critique.

8 John 08.05.12 at 12:03 pm

Walter, 1) what others say is irrelevant to Menino’s statement, particularly when they are 1000 miles away; 2) Assumptions don’t make it so; 3) Idiots abound: as you point out, most of the noise was just that, and 4) calls for a conclusion: how do you know this?

I agree that Menino should be censured for running his mouth off: we should expect better from our elected officials. But this is outrage in a teapot.

9 Ted 08.05.12 at 5:57 pm

As my brother pointed out to me FCA can be fairly called “anti-gay,” too for its promotion of “conversion” theory. But, yes, Chick-fil-A gives $1.7M to Christian groups, and only a small fraction of that can be fairly attributed to anti-gay causes rather than more conventional charitable uses. Which was my point.

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