On July 22, I began the petition on Change.org to remove Chick-Fil-A from Coffman Union because of CEO Dan Cathy’s public stance against marriage equality and the millions of dollars the restaurant chain has given to anti-gay causes. No, eating there does not make you a bigot. The company’s public stance, however, should merit reconsideration among marriage equality supporters.
Unless you are GLBT or an ally, you may not be able to fully comprehend how insulting the presence of the restaurant on campus is. You may not have realized how the restaurant represents the misguided notion that we are somehow “intrinsically disordered” or that we made a choice to be gay.
Some may say we are attempting to suppress Cathy’s First Amendment right to free speech. This is simply not true. The First Amendment protects individuals from the government’s attempt at stifling speech, not from a negative public backlash. Ironically, what Cathy advocates is to deny Fifth and Fourteenth amendment rights to a minority that still has constitutional protections. These rights, otherwise known as due process and equal protection, are why the U.S. government cannot constitutionally deny marriage rights to any citizen because they happen to be gay.
The Minnesota Daily Editorial Board asserts that Chick-Fil-A’s stance, while distasteful, does not merit removal from Coffman. I find this argument to be inherently flawed. Religion is not a “get out of jail free” card. Being a person of faith does not give anyone the right to impose their values on an entire society. Many of us choose to live a life free of dogmatic constraints. Even among believers, there is an increasing support for equality. Cathy is entitled to his views inside his own house of worship, a place that will never be required to perform same-sex weddings. But, at its core, marriage is a government contract. As such, the government cannot restrict marriage rights to only heterosexual couples. Doing so would be to “respect an establishment of religion” in direct violation of the First Amendment.
The University of Minnesota has already taken a stand against the freedom-limiting marriage amendment in this state. The next logical step is for the University to listen to the concerns of its own community and remove Chick-Fil-A from campus.