Michael Bloomberg’s Absurd Statement and How it Reflects Something Wrong with America

I want to start off this blog post by recapping what exactly Chick-fil-A has done to prove that it is a homophobic company. First of all, it has no written anti-discrimination policy for gay employees. Second, there is the appalling comment made recently by company president Dan Cathy, which I documented in a recent post. Third, the WinShape Foundation is the charitable arm of Chick-fil-A and company founder S. Truett Cathy. This foundation is closely connected with the Ruth Institute. The Ruth Institute is a spin-off project of the National Organization for Marriage, one of the leading anti-gay groups in the country. Finally, it is well documented that the WinShape Foundation excluded gay people from a couples’ retreat. Now, in light of this bigotry, attempts have been made in Chicago and Boston to ban Chick-fil-A from doing business in their cities. This is perfectly reasonable, since it is illegal in both Illinois and Massachusetts to discriminate in employment based on sexual orientation. Of course, the United States has no such anti-discrimination law at the federal level. The European Union requires its members to pass such laws, and Canada also has one. However, the United States prefers to follow the example of such nations as China, Russia, and India. At any rate, Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor and usually a supporter of gay rights, criticized attempts to ban Chick-fil-A, saying, “I just don’t think it’s the government’s business, period,” Bloomberg’s statement is outrageous coming from him. But whereas Angelina Jolie’s statement just made me crack up, Bloomberg’s statement made me want to throw something. This is after all the man who, just two months ago, was championing a city ordinance banning the sale of super-sized soft drinks. So apparently, in Bloomberg’s ideal State, if you have a business and want to trash people based on their sexual orientation, that’s unfortunate but permissible. But if you want to sell a product to people who want it, and the product has too much health risk, the law will intervene. What is Bloomberg thinking? The double standard here would be funny if it were not so appalling. Denigrating a person based on their sexual orientation necessarily hurts them against their will. Selling a huge soda to people every day hurts that person, but the customers are choosing to hurt themselves! Now, to be honest, if Chick-fil-A adopts a written anti-discrimination policy covering gay employees, I might oppose an effort to ban them from doing business, but would still boycott them due to their other displays of homophobia. Yet how can a rational person not understand why allowing Chick-fil-A to do business in New York City while banning the sale of super-sized drinks is so absurd? Oh, people say, but obesity is a public health problem. You know what else are public health problems? Gay teen suicides and anti-gay hate crimes. And these problems are a by-product of homophobia, a disease just as deadly as obesity. And Chick-fil-A helps promote this very disease. Bloomberg’s double standard, however, reflects a major problem in America. For so many Americans, gay equality is an appallingly low priority. (This reminds me that I need to do a post some time soon about how racial equality is a low priority for many historians.) These Americans will simply shrug and keep their mouths shut when one of their relatives makes a homophobic comment. They can never be bothered to protest anti-gay discrimination. But if they are at a football game, and a spectator decides to exercise their right to free speech by sitting during the National Anthem, these same Americans will be filled with indignation and begin yelling at the spectator to stand up. Likewise, many Americans will accept government involvement in areas where it has no business intruding but balk when anyone brings up the idea of using government to fight discrimination against gay people. Many conservatives, when asked about companies that fire people because they are gay, or private Christian schools that refuse to enroll a child because he has two dads, will sigh and say that they oppose such discrimination but think that the government should stay out of it. But what happens three days later, when an Anarchist decides to take a match and light the American Flag on fire? Then, these same conservatives get up in arms and demand that the government step in and pass a constitutional amendment banning flag burning. So denying a person a job or an education based on an immutable trait like their sexual orientation or their parents’ sexual orientation is your decision, but showing anger at the government by burning a piece of cloth should be a criminal offense. So many people care more about whether or not their favorite team won the latest baseball game than about whether or not millions of people have equal rights. They care more about how many martial arts tournaments Chuck Norris won than about how many homophobic comments he has made. The biggest threat to the Gay Rights Movement is, of course, the bigots. But aside from them, the biggest threats are frightened gay people and apathetic, uncaring heterosexuals with skewed priorities. Where are the Wendell Phillipses and Lydia Maria Childs of this generation? What happened to the people who care about other people’s rights and make them their top priority, even at the risk of their reputation and comfort?

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