A Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. Gay rights advocates...

A Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. Gay rights advocates were surprised that the president of the Atlanta-based chain has taken a public position against same-sex marriage. Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said this week that his privately owned company is "guilty as charged" in support of what he called the biblical definition of the family unit. (July 19, 2012) Credit: AP

Lately I've found myself on the horns of a deep-fried dilemma. My conscience is taking a Chick-fil-A flaying.

Chick-fil-A is a legendary fast-food chain most densely located in the southeastern states. It proffers a chicken sandwich so good it makes other chicken sandwiches taste like parboiled roadkill.

Seriously, these people are to chicken sandwiches what Peter Luger would be to steak, if Peter Luger's steaks cost $3 and the employees were polite.

But the president of Chick-fil-A Inc. and member of the founding family, Dan Cathy, admits the company gives money to organizations that fight equal rights for gay people. So every time I buy a Chick-fil-A sandwich (or rather, three Chick-fil-A sandwiches), a portion of my money is used to keep gay people down.

I support the right of gay people to marry and enjoy the benefits (and agonies) associated with that blissful (brutal) state.

This is generally not a problem for me because while it has been reported that the company is looking to open here, Long Island currently remains a Chick-fil-A wasteland. But last week I visited South Carolina, and the chicken yumminess taunted me. Twice, I gave in.

Chick-fil-A is a deeply Christian, conservative company. Stores close on Sunday. Its mission statement includes the goal of glorifying God. It's also known for its support of schools, and its clean and pleasant restaurants staffed with cheerful employees. In other words, it's a mixed bag.

This isn't a problem for me because Dan Cathy wants to keep gay people down. It's a problem because he's famous enough for the media to track his money. My dry cleaner may support the KKK, the local diner could be funneling cash toward popularizing puppy-skin purses, and my proctologist may be funding an anti-bikini jihad (imagine the evil).

But how would I know?

I've done business with folks who support bad things. We all have, from the big banks, oil companies and agricultural monoliths to the tiny businesses we trade with. My air conditioning repairman, when I lived in South Carolina, loved cockfighting. Cockfighting is abhorrent, but in the South, a relationship with an AC repairman who shows up promptly when you call, hysterically begging for help as your family melts into fleshy carpet puddles, is sacred. He could have taken mid-repair naps in my bed and I'd have let it slide.

But I do believe in voting with my dollars. As a Jew, I don't buy products made in Germany because I know a percentage of the taxes they generate will support old people who killed Jews in the Holocaust. And I'm secretly envious of those who can boycott Disney World because the park has Gay Days every year. I can't join in, because I'm not against Gay Days, but any boycott that could save me $6,000 and keep me out of two-hour lines is one I'd love to horn in on.

The extent to which I need the people I trade with to agree with my political views is iffy, but I definitely don't want to give cash to folks who will use it to trounce liberty. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't have spent money at Chick-fil-A last week.

But more offensive than Cathy's contributions are movements to keep his company from opening branches. In Chicago, Alderman Joe Moreno has vowed to block Chick-fil-A from opening its second location in the city, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is backing him. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino says he will make it "very difficult" for a branch to open.

Cathy has every right to open stores, and residents have the right to stay away, or flock. They can speak with dollars. In trying to ban that conversation, these city leaders are far bigger enemies of freedom than Dan Cathy.

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.


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