We’re all in the same sandbox. Who am I to say you can’t play?

 

I always suspected there must be more to Chik-fil-A than a faceless entity sponsoring women’s golf tournaments. Now I know it’s a fast-food joint. I’ve never seen a Chik-fil-A franchise, although it turns out there’s one not far from me. I’m not sure I want to know what they serve. What, after all, is a “filet” of chicken – a boneless chicken breast? Why not just call it – oh, never mind, that wouldn’t do. Or do they mean actual “chicks”? Seems to me baby chickens might be hard to de-bone. Anyway, I’m sure the food is admirably hygienic, but when you remove letters from real words and reshuffle spellings into something cutesy and childlike, you give the impression of something fake.

Real, however, is the controversy over the company’s funding of anti-gay groups, which has led to protests in liberal hotbeds like New York and Boston. I was finding it all only minimally interesting until I read that Boston’s mayor Thomas Menino had written the following to Chik-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

When a firm like The Jim Henson Company with its Muppet empire, or a private university like Northeastern, declines to associate with a company that funds anti-gay groups to the tune of millions of dollars, I think that’s just fine – the same way it’s fine for me personally to boycott a place with icky politics at the top.

But should a municipality keep a company out for political reasons, as Menino wants to? The Mayor himself now admits that he doesn’t actually have the authority to do any such thing. But cities and towns are always trying to keep stores out for one reason or another. Wal-Mart comes into town and puts mom-and-pop shops out of business, so communities fight to keep the big boxes out. Rich suburban towns don’t want garish yellow arches on their sedate, capuccino-ed Main Streets, so they do their best to keep McDonald’s away. Of course, to paraphrase Mitt Romney, “Cities are people, my friend.” But they’re also public entities, by definition. Shouldn’t they be pretty much neutral? Shouldn’t they welcome any law-abiding company, whatever its executives’ political views – especially if the store isn’t threatening the local economy, which a Chik-fil-A probably wouldn’t be doing?

The anti-gay activism in question deserves all the condemnation we can muster, no doubt about it. But a city should feel like a welcoming place to all its inhabitants, whatever their points of view, whomever they voted for as mayor, and whatever they feel like eating for lunch. “No place for your company here” isn’t a message this liberal hothead feels comfortable with.