Why Chick-fil-A Matters
The furor is about much more than just a chicken sandwich.
When Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy declared his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples, reaction was swift. Some LGBT groups called for a boycott, the Jim Henson Company pulled out of a merchandising deal, and politicians in Boston and Chicago said their cities would not tolerate such discrimination. But the backlash points to a bigger shift in the national conversation about the freedom to marry. We have been saying for some time now that the tide is no longer turning—it’s already turned.
A few weeks ago, more than three dozen companies signed on to a brief in support of Lambda Legal’s challenge to DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act—Microsoft, Google, Viacom, Xerox, CBS, eBay, the Gap and other corporations much larger than a fast-food chain. All of them agree on one thing: Discrimination is bad for business.
Last week, Jen Cast, a former Lambda Legal board member and one of Amazon.com’s first employees, emailed the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, asking for his support in the fight for marriage equality in Washington State. Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women’s Law Center sued in 2004 for the freedom to marry in the Evergreen State, but we did not prevail in court. In February of this year, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a marriage equality bill into law, but opponents collected enough signatures for a referendum in November.
Jen is now finance co-chair of Washington United for Marriage. She asked Bezos for $100,000 or $200,000 to help defeat the antigay initiative. Instead, she got this email from Bezos and his wife: “Jen, this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie.”
It is right, and not just for business leaders. Some 132 members of Congress signed on to a brief in support of Lambda Legal’s DOMA challenge. So did labor unions, bar associations, religious groups, health care professional organizations, legal scholars and historians—a groundswell of support from nearly all walks of life. The Justice Department has concluded that DOMA is unconstitutional, and has asked the Supreme Court to hear our case. And President Obama has announced his opposition to DOMA and his support of marriage for same-sex couples.
Lambda Legal has had an agenda for nearly 40 years—equality for LGBT people and people living with HIV. People like Dan Cathy are increasingly finding themselves on the wrong side of history. DOMA is on its last legs. The day will come when same-sex couples and their families can enjoy full equality under the law. More and more, that day is looking inevitable—sooner rather than later.