It’s always easy to get people to condemn threats to free speech when the speech being threatened is speech that they like. It’s much more difficult to induce support for free speech rights when the speech being punished is speech they find repellent. But having Mayors and other officials punish businesses for the political and social views of their executives — regardless of what those views are — is as pure a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech as it gets, and beyond that, is genuinely dangerous.
If you support what Emanuel is doing here, then you should be equally supportive of a Mayor in Texas or a Governor in Idaho who blocks businesses from opening if they are run by those who support same-sex marriage — or who oppose American wars, or who support reproductive rights, or who favor single-payer health care, or which donates to LGBT groups and Planned Parenthood, on the ground that such views are offensive to Christian or conservative residents. You can’t cheer when political officials punish the expression of views you dislike and then expect to be taken seriously when you wrap yourself in the banner of free speech in order to protest state punishment of views you like and share. Free speech rights means that government officials are barred from creating lists of approved and disapproved political ideas and then using the power of the state to enforce those preferences.
As always, the solution to noxious ideas like the ones from this chicken CEO are to rebut them, not use state power to suppress them. The virtue of gay equality has become increasingly recognized in the U.S. because people have been persuaded of its merits, not because state officials, acting like Inquisitors, forced people to accept it by punishing them for their refusal. Perhaps Rahm Emanuel is motivated by beneficent ends, or maybe he’s motivated by political considerations and a love of his own power, but either way, abusing his power to punish views he dislikes is at least as offensive as — and definitely more dangerous than — the targeted views themselves.
Like Ed, I don't agree with Greenwald on lots of topics. Gay rights and gay marriage, however, as anyone who follows what if? knows, is one area where I do.
That, however, is not the point.
Our first amendment rights are part of what causes many to say ours is the greatest nation around. As a friend of mine who grew up in the Soviet Union once told me, it is difficult for Americans to appreciate just how precious these rights are, because we have lived with them all our lives. For those who have not, they understand all too well what it is like to have the boot of government preventing them from living their lives as they wish.
And - a few more thoughts. Even for those who are pro-gay marriage... Please remember that this company has not discriminated against any employees or customers due to sexual orientation. Do you really think that simply holding the view that marriage should be "between a man and a woman" means that either your company shouldn't be able to be in the neighborhood - or - that you should boycott that company because of the CEO's views? If you do - then how were you able to vote for President Obama? Remember; it was not that long ago that the president expressed a view pretty much identical to the head of Chik-fil-A!
Do we really want a society where we refuse to do business with those whose totality of views don't completely match up with our own? I must admit I can imagine some viewpoints that are so repugnant, I, too might consider a boycott. Still. I like to think that I can disagree with my neighbors, try to change their minds if I have the opportunity - yet be able to live amongst those with whom I don't always agree.
In any case, big cheers to Greenwald and all the others on the left who are able to see the forest for the trees.