By Mathew Highland, Adjunct Staff Writer
Chick-fil-A is against marriage equality. But you already know that by now. The backlash and tide of support have created a national conversation.
Right now that conversation centers around whether this is or isn’t a First Amendment issue. It is, sort of, at least for now. It may end up being a 28th Amendment issue by the time the conversation ends. A 28th Amendment to overturn Citizens United is not yet ratified, but is gaining momentum.
It’s been almost two years since I have spent a dime at Target retail stores. In 2010 they got caught up in a political spending scandal that was largely unnoticed by mainstream audiences, though it gained substantial traction in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Target was donating large sums of money to anti-gay rights gubernatorial candidate with ties to rabidly anti-gay activists.
Some of those activists have advocated for the outright execution of gays. Target went to great efforts to keep it out of the mainstream press. And since have reached out to the LGBT community through marketing and by carrying products, which support marriage equality. They still, however, have not agreed to stop political spending.
When it came to Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving and official position, Chick-fil-A doubled down. Its CEO didn’t shy away from his views and confirmed that he, and his company are firmly opposed to marriage equality.
Yes, Dan Cathy has a right to say whatever it is that he wants to say. That right is protected under the First Amendment. Unfortunately, due to the recent Supreme Court Ruling, his company is also able to speak, in the form of cash. Chick-fil-A donates to extreme right wing groups that fund gay conversion therapy, campaign against marriage equality in the United States, as well as campaign for legislation abroad that calls for the EXECUTION of gays. Seriously.
When CEO Dan Cathy proudly confirmed his stance, right wing pundits and politicians jumped on the bandwagon to support “traditional marriage.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” People lined up out the door at Chick-fil-As throughout the nation. While those in the LGBT community and their allies have vowed to boycott and also participated in a same-sex kiss-in following the “appreciation day.”
Companies spend millions on their brand and image. It is the most valuable thing a large company has, more valuable than its combined assets and the aggregate sum of its parts. Americans love their brands. They have emotional connections to them. They use them to establish their own identity. In this Citizens United era, with money viewed as speech, and corporations viewed as people, the marketplace is bound to get politicized. And that may not work out so well for the corporations. Brands will get bloodied.
Maybe the only thing that will get Americans riled up anymore is a little brand warfare. As people discover the political identities of their favorite brands, hard earned loyalty may be easily lost. As the market place is politicized and consumers become more armed and educated to fight back, the focus will turn from political giving to labor practices. Bigots may line up for anti-gay sandwiches, but fewer may line up demanding slave-wage made products.
This issue at first seems like a gay rights issue, then like a First Amendment issue. But what it really leads to is the 28th Amendment. A campaign is already underway to amend the U.S. Constitution to correct the disastrous Citizens United ruling. If you love your brands and love democracy, you’d be wise to protect them both by supporting such an amendment.
Target is in the business of selling home furnishings and other products. Chick-fil-A is in the business of selling quickly-made chicken. They are not, and should not, be in the business of influencing legislation that affects people across the nation, and around the world. That is what democracy is for. It should be one person, one vote, one voice. Corporations have a voice through their CEOs, shareholders, employees and customers. They can all vote. They all have the right to free speech. These rights being bestowed upon fictitious beings whose sole interest is to increase profit runs counter to everything that true democracy stands for. Corporations are NOT people and money is not speech. It’s a losing proposition for the corporations, but more importantly it’s bad for our citizens and democracy. When the dust settles people will remember which brands thought it was okay to buy our democracy.