Why I won’t be eating at Chick-Fil-A anytime soon

07.05.2011, 4:23 AM

Fake Chickens at "Night"

David Blankenhorn writes:

Recently in the New York Times, the reporter Kim Severson writes that Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast food company, “has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting same-sex marriage.

I can’t speak with certainty, but I am fairly sure that this statement is untrue.

Chick-Fil-A has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Christian Foundation (NCF), a national group.

NCF, among other activities, gives huge gobs of money to national groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. Although those groups do have other activities, opposing SSM is a major part of their agenda.

So the question is, does Chick-Fil-A’s indirect donation to anti-SSM groups count as having “given hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting same-sex marriage”?

For the purpose of an article in the Times, I’d say it does not count. Newspapers are supposed to be painstakingly accurate in their language choices. Instead, the phrasing they used could give a false impression that Chick-Fil-A has directly donated money to groups like the Family Research Council.

David ventures two guesses for why the Times writer wrote what she did (she just said it for fun, or she considers all moneys donated not in support of SSM to be anti-SSM). He didn’t mention the most obvious possibility: Maybe she made a good-faith mistake. It’s not impossible for a reporter on a deadline to mix up “donates to a group that donates to anti-SSM groups” and “donates to anti-SSM groups,” especially since Chick-Fil-A was a minor aside in the article, not the main point of the article.

But on the other hand… Maybe the Times article was right after all.

What if the folks running the NCF are consciously anti-SSM, and deliberately include groups fighting SSM among the groups they donate to, as a way of supporting the anti-SSM cause? In that case, the NCF is a national group that’s fighting SSM. And Chick-Fil-A donated over $600,000 to them.

So I’m tentatively in agreement with David — the Times description seems inaccurate. But I might change my mind if I get more information about the NCF.

* * *

Speaking as someone who (very) occasionally buys fast food — I won’t buy from Chick-Fil-A again.

It’s not just the donations — although that alone is enough. (Donating to a group that donates to anti-gay groups isn’t acceptable behavior for any corporation that wants my business. Importantly, this isn’t something that Chick-Fil-A’s owners do with their own personal income; from what I can make out, it’s something Chick-Fil-A does with its corporate income.)

But I’m more bothered by the policies described in an article in Forbes (quoted here):

Loyalty to the company isn’t the only thing that matters to Cathy, who wants married workers, believing they are more industrious and productive. One in three company operators have attended Christian-based relationship-building retreats through WinShape at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga. The programs include classes on conflict resolution and communication. Family members of prospective operators–children, even–are frequently interviewed so Cathy and his family can learn more about job candidates and their relationships at home.

1) I don’t think discrimination against unmarried workers is acceptable.

2) An employer interviewing the children of job applicants is just plain creepy.

3) This policy almost certainly creates de facto discrimination against job applicants in same-sex relationships.


47 Responses to “Why I won’t be eating at Chick-Fil-A anytime soon”

  1. La Lubu says:

    Here’s the Forbes article; it has an interesting quote here:

    “Chick-fil-A, the corporate parent, has been sued at least 12 times since 1988 on charges of employment discrimination, according to records in U.S. District Courts. Aziz Latif, a former Chick-fil-A restaurant manager in Houston, sued the company in 2002 after Latif, a Muslim, says he was fired a day after he didn’t participate in a group prayer to Jesus Christ at a company training program in 2000. The suit was settled on undisclosed terms.”

    YOW. Yeah, they’re permanently off my list of acceptable companies to buy from.

  2. David Blankenhorn says:

    Barry: I mostly agree with what you say here.

    Although I do think your are letting the Times reporter off pretty easily. If she had said something demonstrably false about YOU in the newspaper of record, I doubt you would be saying much about how easy it is to get confused, or how hard it is to be a reporter on deadline, etc.

    And also, your take-away regarding the relationship between Chik-fil-A and the National Christian Foundation comes pretty close to what in my original post I call the number 3 position: i.e., any money donated to anything that is not pro-ssm is presumed to be anti-ssm (or, as you would have it, anti-gay, which is an even further stretch). This is kinda what the McCarthy movement did in the 50s — “let’s see now, you once had a transaction with a guy named Bob, who is a communist or at least once went to a communist party meeting, we have reason to believe, therefore you must be a supporter of the communist party.” This kind of logic sure does generate a lot of communists! But is this kind of extreme ideologization of public discourse, such that “he who is not with me is against me,” really what you and I want? I know I don’t.

    But on the basic issue I raised — is the statement in the Times true or not true — it seems that we pretty much agree (with your caveats duly noted) that the answer appears to be, not true.

    BTW, if you ever met the Cathys personally, or got to know the culture of the company, “creepy” is about the last word that would come to your mind, in my (perhaps biased opinion).

  3. Jeffrey says:

    any money donated to anything that is not pro-ssm is presumed to be anti-ssm (or, as you would have it, anti-gay, which is an even further stretch).

    But money from NCF does go to organizations that are not just sitting on the sidelines while being opposed, but actively engages in opposing SSM. That’s true for FRC, for FotF. Many of the state affiliates of AFA are actively involved in statewide measures opposing SSM.

    So this isn’t McCarthyism. It is pointing out that Chicken money goes to groups (either directly or indirectly) that are actively involved in anti-SSM efforts. There are clearly groups in the marriage movement who are opposed to SSM, but not actively engaged in the fight. There are others who are actively involved in the fight. If this mission creep is uncomfortable for the marriage movement and its leaders, that’s an internal question. But there’s no reason to pretend that some groups aren’t actively involved in opposing SSM.

  4. David,

    1) I agree that I’m probably letting the Times reporter off easier than someone who was directly affected (Mr. Cathy, for instance) might be inclined to. Just as you’re letting NCF off much easier than someone directly affected (anyone who is gay, for instance) might be inclined to.

    2) If you’re going to complain that those of us who are pro-SSM are engaging in “extreme ideologization,” maybe you shouldn’t leap to accusations of McCarthyism.

    3) Your argument is completely without merit. My post claimed that NCF, among other activities, donates money to groups that actively oppose SSM. That was perfectly accurate (thanks, Jeffrey).

    Surely you’re not saying that purposely donating money to political advocacy groups is substantively the same thing as having once rented an apartment from a guy who allegedly once attended a meeting — because that would be ridiculous.

    If I donate large amounts of money to the ACLU, I am directly supporting the work the ACLU does, in a meaningful fashion. It’s not unfair for someone to infer from my donation that I support the ACLU’s work. And it’s certainly not the same as inferring that I must support the ACLU’s work because I was once at the same party as someone. (!)

    4) Here are some quotes from FotF materials:

    “Moms and Dads, are you listening? This movement is the greatest threat to your children. It is of particular danger to your wide-eyed boys, who have no idea what demoralization is planned for them.”

    “The homosexual agenda is a beast. It wants our kids.”

    And a quote from James Dobson (according to an ex-employee):

    “Communities do not let prostitutes, pedophiles, voyeurs, adulterers and those who sexually prefer animals to publicly celebrate their lifestyle, so why should homosexuals get such privileges?”

    The Family Research Council has argued multiple times that the gay rights movement is pro-pedophilia, among many other homophobic themes.

    So I stand by my description of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council as anti-gay groups.

    Edited to add:

    BTW, if you ever met the Cathys personally, or got to know the culture of the company, “creepy” is about the last word that would come to your mind, in my (perhaps biased opinion).

    Next time you talk to them, please tell them I’d love to have lunch with them next time they’re in Portland. :-p

  5. [...] [Crossposted at Family Scholars Blog.] [...]

  6. AT says:

    The author is correct to state that one should expect “precision of language” from the Times.

    In light of this assertion it would have made sense for him to acknowledge that the strategy of conservatives is generally aimed at protecting traditional marriage rather than directly opposing alternative marriages.

  7. David Blankenhorn says:

    Barry: OK, I guess I stand corrected, at least somewhat. If Chick-fil-A gives significant amounts of money to a foundation that in turns gives money to support Focus on the Family and other groups like it, then it is fair of you (and others) to say that the original donor is at least indirectly supporting anti-ssm (and in this case, yes, anti-gay) efforts. I did not know, when I wrote my original post, that they were supporting this particular foundation; and I knew (and still know) nothing about the foundation in question; but assuming that what you and others are saying about the foundation is true (and I have no cause to think otherwise) then yes, you and others in my view are on perfectly solid ground to make the charge that you are making. So: thanks for talking it through with me in these exchanges, and I hereby amend (as I promised I would) my conclusion about Chick-fil-A’s giving.

    By the way, I wasn’t trying to accuse you or anyone of McCarthyism. It was just an analogy, for goodness sakes. I could have picked any number of others.

    On a broader level, I do still believe that sometimes people on your side of this debate are perhaps too quick to believe that giving money to anything connected to marriage that is not pro-ssm is the same as being anti-gay. Maybe we won’t ever see eye to eye on that point, since we begin from different spots.

    But my main point here is: yes, you are right, it appears, in your assessment of whether or not the company is at least indirectly funding anti-gay efforts. This realization saddens me a bit, personally, because I like and admire so much of who they are and what they do.

  8. David, thanks very much for conceding that.

    By the way, I wasn’t trying to accuse you or anyone of McCarthyism. It was just an analogy, for goodness sakes.

    Point well taken, and I apologize for my overreacting.

    On a broader level, I do still believe that sometimes people on your side of this debate are perhaps too quick to believe that giving money to anything connected to marriage that is not pro-ssm is the same as being anti-gay. Maybe we won’t ever see eye to eye on that point, since we begin from different spots.

    I can’t really say; I’d have to see a specific example of what you’re talking about. I haven’t noticed it, myself, but that doesn’t mean it’s never happened.

    I do realize that many people on my side of the SSM debate are hostile to and suspicious of Christians who talk about family issues from a Christian perspective, and also conservatives who talk about family issues. That’s unfair to Christians and conservatives and family-issue activists who aren’t homophobic. But I also think it’s understandable, given the many-decades-long history of Christian and conservative attacks on LGBT people.

    I should clarify that when I say something is “understandable,” that’s not the same thing as saying that it’s “right.” In a perfect would, everyone would be always judged as an individual; just because the last ten Christians Joan Q. Lesbian has met have punched her in the face doesn’t make it right that Joan has become suspicious of Christians she meets. But it’s understandable that she does, and I think expecting her to not do so is expecting Joan to act like a saint.

  9. David Blankenhorn says:

    Barry: Thanks for the above. But good grief — a friend I to whom I was whining just told me that the National Christian Foundation is what is known in philanthropic circles as a “donor-advised fund.” That means, in brief, that the donor deposits money into an account within the foundation and then, later, “advises” (read, directs) the foundation how he or she would like the funding dispersed. So, just to take an example, I as the donor could set up a donor-advised fund at such and such bank or other entity, and then direct that all the money be given to the Red Cross; whereas another donor under the same roof might direct the money in his or her account to be dispersed to, say, Focus on the Family.

    But does this set of structural facts somehow demonstrate that I, who gave my money to the Red Cross only, am in fact also indirectly financially supporting Focus on the Family, by virtue of the fact that both of the funds are at the location?

    In my view, it does not. (BTW, one would think that facts such donor-advised structure would be things that “researchers” who claim to be telling us all about these organizations would, well, tell us, don’t you agree?)

    Now, in the case of Chick-fil-A, I don’t know where the company directed or is directing its funds to go to. But then again, neither do you.

    So here are my questions:

    1. Does this fact — assuming it’s fact; I don’t know for certain; I just heard it over the transom from someone I trust — cause you to re-assess your conclusion that Chik-fil-A’s connection to this donor-advised foundation constitutes reasonable proof that they are indirectly supporting anti-gay efforts?

    2. And does it also lead you to believe that the allegation in the New York Times — that the company is donating “hundreds of thousands” to national campaigns against ssm) is even MORE dubious that you had previously assumed?

  10. Phil says:

    In light of this assertion it would have made sense for him to acknowledge that the strategy of conservatives is generally aimed at protecting traditional marriage rather than directly opposing alternative marriages.

    I would accept that characterization for conservative groups that support legal same-sex marriage and also support and/or work for policies to strengthen the marriages of people who choose to marry someone of the opposite sex.

    What groups did you have in mind who support same-sex marriage while simultaneously supporting “traditional” marriage?

  11. Phil says:

    David,
    I googled “donor-advised funds” to learn more about them. It appears that NCF is, indeed, a donor-advised fund. Here’s what I learned:

    Why use a Christian donor-advised fund versus a secular fund like Fidelity?

    Not to pick on Fidelity as I used to work there, but the most convincing answer is that all donor-advised funds from any fund family or organization ultimately reserve the right to reject or refuse any charitable contributions to any organizations they deem unfit.

    In this sense, it seems that it’s fair to say that there isn’t evidence that hundreds of thousands of Chick-Fil-A dollars have been spent fighting same-sex-marriage (although it is fair to say that Chick-Fil-A has spent thousands of dollars fighting same-sex-marriage, so you’re kind of picking a nit.)

    However, Chick-Fil-A does donate to a group that also spends money fighting SSM. It may be that the money the group spends is not Chick-Fil-A’s money…in which case, both you and Kim Severson are technically correct, and you’re both picking nits.

  12. David Blankenhorn says:

    Phil: Yes, it’s true that a donor-advised fund can turn away contributions and/or contributors, and yes, it’s true that the fund can and must (by law) refuse any request from a participating donor that, say, violates the law, or the fund’s charter. But all of that is neither here nor there, when it comes to the point we are discussing. The fact that the company uses this, or any, donor-advised fund does not in any way make them responsible for the philanthropic decisions of other donors participating in that fund. That is my point.

    And if you want to say now that the company has donated “thousands” (though not “hundreds of thousands”) to national groups fighting ssm, you need to show the evidence. So far, I have not seen any evidence at all.

    And no, Kim Severson of the Times is not technically correct in her statement; and no, she is not just picking nits. She is using her status as a reporter to make a big, unambiguous, and publicly consequential statement of fact in the national paper of record that could have serious repercussions for the company — and yet there is no credible evidence to support her statement. That is not a technical or nit-picking issue; it’s something that, in olden times, when standards were different, would have absolutely required the newspaper to print what old-timey people in journalism used to call a “correction.”

  13. Phil says:

    And if you want to say now that the company has donated “thousands” (though not “hundreds of thousands”) to national groups fighting ssm, you need to show the evidence. So far, I have not seen any evidence at all.

    David, the word “is” in my last comment was a link to the following page:

    http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201103220005

    It indicates that Chick-Fil-A has donated thousands of dollars to
    Serving Marriages, Inc.
    Alliance Defense Fund
    Georgia Family Council
    and even the SPLC anti-gay hate group Family Research Council

    As such, it is entirely reasonable for a consumer to conclude that Chick-Fil-A spends money on groups that fight gay marriage. They just haven’t spent a hundred grand on it directly.

    And no, Kim Severson of the Times is not technically correct in her statement; and no, she is not just picking nits.

    Severson’s statement is “has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting same-sex marriage.”

    Severson states, accurately, that the company has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups, such as the National Christian Foundation. The National Christian Foundation is a national group.

    The National Christian Foundation is involved in fighting gay marriage. They donate money to groups that are not just generally anti-gay, but which campaign against same-sex marriage.

    What about that is incorrect to you, David? C-F-A donates money to a national group, and that group is involved in fighting same-sex marriage.

  14. Phil says:

    The fact that the company uses this, or any, donor-advised fund does not in any way make them responsible for the philanthropic decisions of other donors participating in that fund. That is my point.

    Did Severson say that C-F-A was responsible for the decisions of other donors? It really seems like the issue is awkward phrasing. I said she was “technically correct;” I didn’t say that she was telling the whole story.

    If Chick-Fil-A doesn’t want to be associated with a group that fights same-sex marriage, then they can vet their charities better. Clearly, that wasn’t an issue for them, David.

    Similarly, you are technically correct that C-F-A hasn’t donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-SSM causes, but it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that they have fought against SSM. The difference in degree is a reasonable point, but Chick-Fil-A certainly isn’t blameless.

  15. Marty says:

    Interesting similarities between this discussion and the ones I often see whenever Indiana or Texas or some other state de-funds Planned Parenthood. “Of course none of that taxpayer money goes toward abortion, but to poor womens health services!” they say.

    Taxpayers are increasingly unwilling to let them off the hook so easily. So long as abortion remains a primary part of their business, people don’t much care which pocket the money comes from.

    Similar sentiments going on here I think, but, at least we’re talking about private charity, not taxpayer subsidy.

  16. David Blankenhorn says:

    Thank you, Barry, for your good post and comments and thanks to all the commenters. I’ve learned some things and found the exchanges to be helpful.

    I’ve thought about all the criticisms of Chick-fil-A, and I can see how people of good will who support gay rights would be suspicious of Chick-fil-A as well as of other Christian or Christian-influenced organizations. At the same time, the question I originally raised was: Is it true or not true that, as Kim Severson stated as flat fact in the New York Times, Chick-fil-A “gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting same-sex marriage.”

    After these good exchanges, I am more confident than ever that there is no credible evidence to support Severson’s statement in the Times. The National Christian Foundation, the organization on which Barry and others primarily rest their case of Chick-fil-A’s complicity, is a donor-advised fund — a kind of middle man between the donor and the donor’s intended beneficiaries. Anyone who knows anything about donor-advised funds — and I have worked with them for years — knows that, if I set up a donor-advised fund at Chase Bank in order to distribute MY funds to The Gomer Pyle Show, and someone else whom I don’t know also sets up a fund at Chase to distribute THEIR funds to I Dream of Jeannie, it is a flat-out falsehood for the New York Times to write, based o those facts, that David Blankenhorn is “giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to I Dream of Jeannie.” It just ain’t so.

    What does that leave? It leaves us with absolutely no evidence at all that the company is “giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting same-sex marriage”

    The only charge that can be made, I think, is that the company gives some money to Christian groups (e.g., Fellowship of Christian Atheletes) and that it can be reasonably inferred that these groups do not support gay marriage. Fair enough — and Barry, if you want to stop eating those tasty chicken sandwiches on these grounds, then I can understand and respect that decision as morally serious and valid.

    So, I am not saying that everyone has to like Chick-fil-A or think that evangelical Christianity is A-OK. But I AM insisting there is a meaningful distinction between saying, as one possibility, “I don’t like Chick-fil-A because they are run by conservative Christians who don’t seem at all friendly to same-sex marriage and LGBT concerns generally,” and, as another possibility, saying “I don’t like Chick-fil-A because they are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting same-sex marriage.” The first statement I can accept as valid; the second I cannot.

    This all means a bit more to me because I know and respect these people, and I believe that I know, personally, that giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting ssm is NOT a part of their mission. On the other hand, as Barry rightly points out, this issue touches all of us personally; we all have our stories.

  17. David, as Phil pointed out, Chick-fil-A has given directly to groups that actively campaign against SSM, like Georgia Family Council and the Family Research Council (which is not just anti-SSM, but also anti-gay). So there’s absolutely no question about if CfA has donated money to anti-gay and anti-SSM groups; it absolutely has.

    The New York Times was still wrong, because the money donated directly was thousands of dollars, not hundreds of thousands of dollars. If I were in charge of the Times, I’d run a correction.

    I agree with you, David, that hundreds of thousands of dollars given to a donor-advised fund isn’t the same thing, because we have no idea where that money went.

    Did it go to Christian feed the hungry groups? Maybe. Did it go to anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council? Maybe. Maybe it was split between both kinds of groups. We just don’t know. (Which is sort of disturbing — essentially, companies can keep their political activism secret from customers by using donor-advised funds to whitewash their money and avoid taking responsibility.)

    Of course, Chick-fil-A could clear this up by releasing exactly where the money they’ve donated via their donor-advised fund went. You trust that they’re not donating their money to anti-gay groups like Family Research Council; but since we know Chick-fil-A has donated to Family Research Council already, it seems illogical to assume that they’d never donate to a group like that through their donor-advised fund.

    Don’t get me wrong. I still maintain that the Times was wrong and should retract. But they’re wrong because Chick-fil-A has successfully hidden where they’re donating their money, not because we can be certain that they’re not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting anti-gay groups.

    * * *

    As I said in my original post, the main reason I won’t buy Chick-fil-A’s tasty sandwiches is that their “we prefer married people” policies seem like de facto discrimination against LGB people.

    After I wrote my original post, Christopher emailed me this link, indicating that CfA is going out of their way to preserve the option of discriminating against LGB folk. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    For example, Chick-fil-A’s nondiscrimination policy covers sexual orientation where state laws require the company to do so, but not elsewhere, a company spokesman said. Likewise, Chick-fil-A offers domestic partner health benefits only in places that mandate such coverage. According to the gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign, 89 percent of the Fortune 500 mention sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, and 57 percent offer domestic partner health insurance on a nationwide basis.

    I’m not sure why Chick-fil-A doesn’t want the public to know where they donate their money, and why they don’t include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. But the whole thing seems kind of dubious to me.

  18. David Blankenhorn says:

    Well, Barry, I should probably just leave it there, since we are actually more in agreement on this issue than in disagreement, and since I appreciate your conciliatory tone.

    But. Do you know things I don’t know about this list of organizations that keeps getting cited by you and others?

    Georgia Family Council – a state group, not a national group; and one that does NOT make it a priority to fight ssm.

    Serving Marriages – a state group, not a national group; and one that does NOT seem to be involved in any organized way in efforts to fight ssm.

    Alliance Defense Fund – A look at their website suggests that they focus on religious liberty questions, not ssm.

    That leaves FRC, to which (according to the researcher you seem to be relying on) the company has given the grand total of $1,000, for what specific purpose, we don’t know (although I agree that FRC is a national anti-smm group and is anti-gay).

    So, in my book, at least as far as “donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to national groups fighting same-sex marriage,” this all comes down to $1,000 given at some point for some reason to the Family Research Council. And th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

    Your other criticisms of the company — well, as I said, I think your position is understandable and I can see the validity of much of what you say.

  19. Phil says:

    Can I seek permission to make additional posts?

  20. David — I agree, we agree more than we disagree on this. :-)

    The only two groups I mentioned were the Georgia Family Council and FRC. We agree about FRC. It’s true that Georgia Family Council doesn’t do much work against SSM — they don’t have to! They’re in Georgia! — but they certainly editorialize against SSM. And I had thought that when the issue was bigger in Georgia — when the SSM ban was being proposed — that GFC was involved in that effort. But my memory might be wrong about that.

    In any case, a Georgia group is obviously not a “national” group.

    The researcher who says that CfA made those donations, by the way, appears to be relying on CfA’s tax returns. Unless the person is flat-out lying about what’s on the tax returns, that’s a reliable source.

  21. Can I seek permission to make additional posts?

    Phil — permission granted.

    (As I understand the policy, the person who wrote the original post may grant such permission, and of course the moderator may grant permission for any thread.)

  22. admin says:

    (As I understand the policy, the person who wrote the original post may grant such permission, and of course the moderator may grant permission for any thread.)

    Correct. And thank you, Phil, for asking.

  23. Phil says:

    David, I can’t tell if your goal is to apply very, very strict stylistic and grammatical rules, or if you are just trying to play a shell game with regard to what it means to “fight same-sex marriage.”

    I’m sure we don’t disagree on what a hundred thousand dollars is. And it seems silly to disagree on what a “national organization” is, although I don’t think that’s a well-defined concept. (Do they allow a single member from out of state? Do they spend a single dollar out of state? What’s the bright line?–not that I think it’s important or useful to really delve into that particular definition.)

    I would contend that the Institute for American Values is a national organization that fights same-sex marriage. Do you agree with that characterization?

    I would also contend that David Blankenhorn is a nationally-known figure who fights same-sex marriage. Would you agree with that characterization? (If not, I’m very curious why you’d think that. There is certainly much more to what you do than just fighting SSM. But it is certainly fair to say that you do it, and it’s not dishonest to say so.)

    You appear to be concerned that pro-SSM groups are equating “failure to support SSM” with “fighting against SSM.” I think that is a legitimate concern, but I think that in this particular discussion, what really matters is how you define the word “fight.”

    Marriage equality isn’t a person or an army. You don’t “fight” it by punching it or shooting at it or sending in drones to kill it. You fight it by engaging in behaviors that hurt the cause, so to speak. The more directly your behaviors intentionally hurt the cause of same-sex marriage, the more accurate it would be to say that you are “fighting same-sex marriage.”

    First, I think we can agree that fighting is something you do, not something you think. Therefore, it involves behaviors, not ideas.

    I would categorize the following behaviors as examples of “fighting same-sex marriage:”
    -donating time, money, services or goods to a political campaign intended to persuade people to vote against same-sex marriage
    -designing or working directly on such a campaign, even if you are getting paid
    -creating or distributing propaganda intended to foster negative opinions about same-sex marriage, even if it is not part of an organized political campaign. This includes books, pamphlets, speeches, opinion columns, Youtube videos, etc.
    -testifying in court or at a hearing that same-sex marriage ought to be illegal, or ought to be repealed, etc. (even if you are getting paid)
    -arguing in court or at a hearing that same-sex marriage ought to be illegal, or ought to be repealed, etc. (even if you are getting paid)
    -signing your name to any petition, or providing any support at all to a law or referendum that is intended to reduce the likelihood that SSM is legal in a region
    -donating or giving money, services or goods to any group with the intention that said money, services or goods will be used to fund campaigns or propaganda designed
    -underwriting the living expenses of a person whose job includes actively campaigning or propagandizing against SSM
    -voting against a law that would legalize SSM
    -voting for a law that would have the effect of making SSM legally unequal to mixed-sex marriages, or is meant to have the effect of perpetuating such inequality

    …and I would add to that list:
    -providing services for people who engage in the abovementioned behaviors that you specifically and intentionally choose not to provide for similarly situated proponents of same-sex marriage. On that list I would include things like providing your lawn for a Pro-Prop 8 rally, or helping a major donor hide their donation trail by providing a shelter or shell group that then allows them to spend money fighting SSM.

    In my view, the Alliance Defense Fund is unquestionably a group that fights SSM. I cannot fathom how you could see it otherwise. That they justify their fighting with their religious beliefs is their business, but it doesn’t somehow mean they’re not fighting same-sex marriage. They provide funding, they provide lawyers, they provide services…what on earth does it mean to “fight same-sex marriage” if the ADF isn’t doing it? They publish pamphlets arguing against same-sex marriage, for goodness sakes.

  24. David Blankenhorn says:

    Phil: Thanks for the good post.

    I am not trying to play shell games, or games of any sort.

    I agree with you that the issue is actions, not opinions; and I basically agree with your list of what it means to “fight” ssm — your list is in my view a very good one.

    Your question regarding me and the Institute for American Values is very interesting. As to me personally — yes, of course, I am a person who is publicly opposing (“fighting”) ssm. As to the Institute corporately, that’s a much harder question. The Institute does not have or require joint or corportate positions; and there are in fact those on our board as well as on our staff who FAVOR ssm, as well as those who have not taken a public position on the issue. On the other hand, I as president, and Elizabeth Marquardt as VP for family studies, both oppose ssm (as individuals), and we are both somewhat in the public eye as both leaders of the organization and as opponents of ssm, so I don’t really quarrel too much if people say or assume that the Institute corporately opposes ssm — even though it is not in fact true.

    As to the Alliance Defense Fund, I just don’t know that group. I looked on their website and did not see anything about marriage law or ssm, but you seem convinced that they are “a national group fighting ssm” and I don’t know enough to disagree with you so I’ll accept your view unless and until I come across evidence to the contrary.

    And so, back to Chick-fil-A. If you are right about Alliance Defense Fund, that leaves:

    Alliance Defense Fund (what was it? 1K? 3K?)
    Family Research Council (1K)

    So are we getting close to agreeing on a sum? What is the total — about 3 or 4 thousand dollars?

  25. fannie says:

    David says:

    “As to the Alliance Defense Fund, I just don’t know that group.”

    If I may respectfully ask… really?

    The Alliance Defense Fund attorneys litigated the Perry lawsuit. You were a witness in Perry. With all due respect, how are you not familiar with this group?

  26. David Blankenhorn says:

    fannie:

    You may respectfully ask. And I will respectfully answer:

    Really.

    The lawyers I worked with were from Cooper & Kirk.

  27. fannie says:

    I see, thanks David.

    I am glad that you don’t work with ADF, since I find their work extremely problematic. But I won’t derail about that here.

    Thanks for answering. :-)

  28. Karen, that is not in any conceivable way on topic for this thread.

    Yes, there are some bottom-feeders on my side of the debate who make disgusting threats — just as there are on your side of the debate (just ask John Campbell or Lisa Natio).

    There are a small minority of absolutely vile people on both sides of this debate. Let’s not reward their bad behavior by making them the focus of our discussion.

  29. Mont D. Law says:

    (I agree that to give these types of vile behaviors (on both sides -seems to be more on the Pro-SSM debaters side than not though) any focus is to give them credibility by default and further their hateful intent.)

    I’m pretty sure I can match your list easily and include actual violence as opposed to just threats. But then you’ll insist that my examples are not the same at all and don’t count.

    http://tinyurl.com/8dsll5
    http://tinyurl.com/72mvrn
    http://tinyurl.com/namt5x
    http://tinyurl.com/3l898r5
    http://tinyurl.com/6ab5575
    http://tinyurl.com/6l7eslg
    http://tinyurl.com/43bhobb
    http://tinyurl.com/3ktre9b
    http://tinyurl.com/5uefh5r
    http://tinyurl.com/3wz6m8o

  30. Jeffrey says:

    So if a company was actively working to keep donors anonymous and funding ithe efforts, you’d continue to spend your money there? Since you aren’t reactionary or a follower?

  31. David Blankenhorn says:

    It seems obvious that, historically, the hate and violence has been almost entirely one-sided — i.e. committed by straights against gays and lesbians. And I suspect it remains that way. And that is one reason why ssm is gaining ground among so many humane-thinking people.

    At the same time, there is clearly a strain of thuggishness in the current push for ssm — the idea among proponents that those who oppose ssm are bad people whose views are simply intolerable and no different as people from those who, say, support racism, or genocide. And to me this is wrong, and one of the reasons why I believe in the conversations (however imperfect) on this blog.


    “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

  32. At the same time, there is clearly a strain of thuggishness in the current push for ssm — the idea among proponents that those who oppose ssm are bad people whose views are simply intolerable and no different as people from those who, say, support racism, or genocide. And to me this is wrong, and one of the reasons why I believe in the conversations (however imperfect) on this blog.

    David, I disagree with only two things in the above paragraph.

    First, your use of “thuggishness.” I don’t agree that comparing discrimination against LGBT people to racism is “thuggish”; criticism of another person’s policy preferences isn’t thuggish behavior. To me, and to the dictionary, “thuggish” has a connotation of violence and criminality.

    (I don’t think comparisons to genocide are “thuggish,” per se, but I do agree that the comparison is ridiculous, odious and wrong.)

    My second, and much more important, criticism is that you should have criticized both proponents and opponents of SSM, rather than unfairly singling out SSM proponents. (I know that you cited anti-gay violence, but you didn’t suggest that it’s committed by SSM opponents, and you weren’t even sure anti-gay violence still goes on today.)

    I’ve already pointed out instances of opponents of SSM threatening to murder proponents of SSM and their families. Is that not thuggishness?

    There are also countless minor incidents (the week we put a pro-SSM bumper sticker on our rear windshield, someone put a rock through it). Is that not thuggishness?

    And if — as you say — comparisons to genocide count as “thuggishness,” then by the same standard comparing SSM proponents to Nazis, or Bull Connor, or North Korea, must also be thuggish. And if comparisons to racism are thuggish, then accusations that proponents of SSM are selfish, endangering children, and destroying the family must also be thuggish.

    Singling out only SSM proponents comes across, not as an attempt at a more human and humane conversation, but as partisan mudslinging. Especially since NOM’s really been pushing the “you should vote against SSM because gays bullies!” argument for the last couple of years.

    So here’s how I wish you’d written that paragraph:

    At the same time, there is clearly a strain of dehumanization on both sides in the current ssm debate — the idea that those we disagree with are bad people whose views are simply intolerable and no different from history’s worst monsters. And to me this is wrong, and one of the reasons why I believe in the conversations (however imperfect) on this blog.

    That’s a statement I fully agree with. And I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it’s a statement that you fully agree with, too.

  33. David Blankenhorn says:

    Barry: Yes, I do agree with your revised paragraph. Thanks.

  34. Hernan says:

    Thank you both.

  35. Phil says:

    the idea among proponents that those who oppose ssm are bad people whose views are simply intolerable and no different as people from those who, say, support racism, or genocide.

    I realize this paragraph has been revised, but I have a comment that I think is relevant to the observation that some SSM proponents compare SSM opponents to racists, and also to whether boycotts are justified.

    Here’s my thing. David, you obviously believe that it is possible to oppose same-sex marriage for non-bigoted reasons. I think it’s fair to say that you occupy the space in our culture that you do because you maintain that it is possible to articulate a non-bigoted, non-religious argument against same-sex marriage.

    However, surely you agree that bigotry exists among SSM opponents. If anything, you are the exception that proves the rule. Part of your relevance in the SSM debate in America is your insistence that it is possible to oppose SSM and still maintain that gays and lesbians valuable and worthy people deserving of equal rights.

    As such, you must realize that there are opponents of SSM who are bigots, and whose reasons for opposing SSM are not the same as yours. Karen Clark has decried on this blog that SSM opponents are labeled haters and bigots. And perhaps that’s unfair. But surely you both realize that there are, in fact, haters and bigots who oppose SSM?

    It is possible that there are proponents of SSM who hold their political position because of hatred of straight people, or who support SSM because they believe it will harm straight people. But no one in their right mind would contend that those people outnumber the people who oppose SSM because they hate gay people, or because they want to cause gay people harm, or because they do not care if gay people suffer harm.

    I propose that the following statements are true. If you take issue with any of them, I would be very curious why.

    1. There are people in this country who oppose same-sex marriage because of bigotry, hatred, and/or anti-gay prejudice.

    2. The number of these people is not insignificant.
    (By that I mean, we’re not talking about a group of people that is too small to matter. Consider, for example: it may be theoretically possible for people to oppose interracial marriage for reasons that are not based on bigotry. But I doubt that those people make up any significant portion of the group of people who oppose interracial marriage.)

    3. Even if the number of bigots who oppose SSM is not the majority of SSM opponents, it is quite likely that they comprise a large enough minority that opponents wouldn’t outnumber SSM proponents without them.

    4. A position that relies on bigotry is, itself, a bigoted position.

    5. In almost all of the votes on same-sex marriage in the past ten years, SSM opponents won, with a majority of voters.

    6. SSM opponents would not have won those elections if their numbers didn’t include bigots. That is to say, for example, that if the only people who voted for Proposition 8 were people who can articulate positions similar to David Blankenhorn’s (which recognize the equality of gay people even while they oppose legal same-sex marriage), then Prop 8 would have lost.

    7. Regardless of their personal reasons for opposing SSM, any major SSM opponent in the country knows that their movement includes bigots. Or if they don’t know, they are negligent in their ignorance.

    8. SSM opponents cannot win a majority without the bigots in their ranks. Therefore, a call to “let the people vote,” or an editorial which points to the majority opinion in a given state, is a tacit acceptance of bigotry.

  36. David Blankenhorn says:

    Phil: Your argument, if I understand it, is that an anti-ssm majority in the U.S. would not exist without anti-gay bigotry. That may be true. I’m not positive that it’s true — how could one possibly know such a thing? — but it may be true. In fact I would guess that it probably IS true. So: I think that’s pretty close to me conceding your point, and I can assure you, that that possibility has weighed heavily on my since day one, in this debate.

    My only rejoinder, which is pretty weak, is that of course, it’s not hard in most cases to speculate that “if people only understood the truth” and/or “if only people were good, sincere, and honest,” why, then, they “would agree with me”! I can assure you, I fee that way too, often!

  37. David Blankenhorn says:

    Phil: PS: I would also add that the pro-ssm marriage ranks in the U.S. definitely inlcude those who disapprove of marriage as a social institution and explicitly wish it ill. Much of my book explores this phenomenon. So, if we are going to administer moral-purity tests, when it comes to who is in whose coalition, I suspect that such tests in fairness should cover both sides.

  38. ki sarita says:

    I would agree that a fair percentage of anti SSM folks are motivated by bigotry, if not an actual numerical majority, than certainly the most vocal.
    In an ironic twist, I believe those bigots actually help the SSM cause rather than effectively oppose it, because they have assisted in casting it as a discrimination issue.

  39. R.K. says:

    In fairness, to look at both sides, we should probably ask not only whether the number of people who voted for Prop 8 (or any other state referendum) consisted of a sizable enough portion of people who were bigoted against gays, but also whether the number of people who voted against Prop 8 or other referendums consisted of a sizable enough portion of people who were bigoted against religious fundamentalists, and if we took both out of the equation, which side would win then.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/819778/posts

    (Above link is somewhat tangential, and the article’s title should not cause people to avoid reading it out of prejudgement. (I am not a Republican and don’t plan to become one, by the way). More relevant analysis in the article below, if you are willing to do what you have to to read it in full).

    http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/4/508.extract

  40. Phil says:

    PS: I would also add that the pro-ssm marriage ranks in the U.S. definitely include those who disapprove of marriage as a social institution and explicitly wish it ill.

    I think you are right that it is fair to apply the same sort of analysis to both sides. And I think it is quite possible that there are people with unusual motivations for supporting SSM, such as wishing ill to the institution of marriage.

    My instinct–and I have no hard data to back this up–is that while there may be outspoken leftist intellectuals/activists who base their position on that reasoning, the rank-and-file supporters of SSM do so for the more commonly-articulated reasons. I can tell you that I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of conversations with supporters of SSM, and I have never encountered someone who stated, “I want same-sex marriage to become legal because I want to harm the institution of marriage.”

    I have read arguments from people who believe that marriage is an outdated institution, that monogamy is overrated or archaic, or that the government should not be in the marriage business, but who also voted against Prop 8 because they didn’t want a discriminatory law to be in the constitution. Believing that marriage ought to be dismantled is not the same thing as believing that SSM will (and should) dismantle marriage.

    On the other hand, it seems quite likely, for obvious reasons, that the outspoken public activists who enter the public debate about SSM are less likely to base their reasoning on bigotry than the rank-and-file opponents of SSM.

    but also whether the number of people who voted against Prop 8 or other referendums consisted of a sizable enough portion of people who were bigoted against religious fundamentalists, and if we took both out of the equation

    It is certainly possible to be bigoted against religious fundamentalists. But being a person who is bigoted against fundamentalists who also votes against Prop 8 is not the same thing as basing your support of SSM on bigotry toward religious fundamentalists.

    How would such a position work? Can you express something that you find plausible that you think might be held by a significant number of people?

  41. David Blankenhorn says:

    Phil: I agree that most rank and file pro ssm supporters do so out of a belief in fairness and civil rights, not opposition to marriage as an institution. So, point well taken. At the same time, as the Marxists like to say, it can’t be purely coincidence that almost all intellectuals who think marriage is terrible, favor gay marriage. I agree with you that one wouldn’t want to make TOO much of that point, but should the point be completely dismissed as meaningless?

    On your last point, I agree that there is not a parallel between voting against ssm out of anti-gay animus and voting for ssm while also coincidentally disliking conservative Christians.

  42. fannie says:

    David said:

    “At the same time, as the Marxists like to say, it can’t be purely coincidence that almost all intellectuals who think marriage is terrible, favor gay marriage.”

    I would agree- it’s not a coincidence. Although, I think the general idea is not that allowing same-sex couples to marry will destroy marriage, but that it will improve upon what some see as, owing to some of its problematic historical aspects, a “terrible” institution. I think sometimes opponents of SSM fall into a trap of romanticizing traditional marriage and whitewashing what it meant for women in some time periods and in some cultures (eg- child brides, coverture, male polygamy, the non-recognition of marital rape).

    I think it would be fair to assume that many reasonable people on both sides of the SSM issue would find the above historical aspects of “traditional marriage” problematic. And, given that our present-day legal institutions such as marriage grew out of some of these legacies, I think it’s important to be cognizant and critical of some of society’s current “givens” about marriage, men, and women.

    So, while I see value in children being raised by their biological parents who are committed to one another- I think many opponents of SSM are way off base when they base their opposition to SSM on that wishy-washy, notion of gender complementarism that seems to trap men and women into really narrow roles based on outdated gender stereotypes about the One True Nature of men and women.

    In my view, allowing same-sex couples to marry subverts the notion that “wives bring x, y, and z” to a relationship while “husbands bring -x, -y, and -z” to a marriage.

    It subverts the vow that some women still take to honor and “obey” their husbands, because if two equals are getting married who obeys whom?

    I think there is room for people within this debate to exist with nuanced and sometimes conflicting ideas about marriage. So, while I support marriage, I want it to be better than it has been.

  43. R.K. says:

    But being a person who is bigoted against fundamentalists who also votes against Prop 8 is not the same thing as basing your support of SSM on bigotry toward religious fundamentalists.

    How would such a position work? Can you express something that you find plausible that you think might be held by a significant number of people?

    Yes, a knee jerk reaction, supporting SSM first and foremost because fundamentalists oppose it. As Bolce and DeMaio demonstrate in the links I gave, the number Of people who have an anti-fundamentalist mindset is not small. You might argue that they would probably vote for SSM anyway even if they did not have an animosity against fundamentalists, but the same would probably be true about those who oppose SSM for bigoted reasons.

    Also, while I suppose many people are hostile to fundamentalists primarily because of their position on homosexuality, also many who are hostile to gays are so because they think gays are somehow attacking or undermining their faith. So it does cut both ways.

    For that matter, we need to come up with just what we mean by “bigoted” here. More on that later.