The response to Mike Huckabee’s Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day puts the lie to blithe assumptions that homophobia is a thing of the past. Of course not everyone who went out of their way to eat fast food yesterday is anti-gay. Even the liberal Boston Globe editorialized in favor of Chick-Fil-A’s unassailable right to conduct its business without discrimination on the basis of political belief. But the prominent identification of the fast food chain with opposition to the “gay agenda” gave haters an opportunity to voice authentic emotions. The Huffington Post tells of a gay Chick-Fil-A employee in Colorado pained by customers citing the chain’s opposition to LGBT equality as the reason for their patronage: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/01/chick-fil-a-anti-gay-controversy-employees-speak-out_n_1729968.html Even more disturbing is this collection of the top 50 homophobic tweets that went out yesterday, some advocating hate violence: http://storify.com/homophobes/top-50-homophobic-chick-fil-a-tweets
Free speech has never been in question–robust judicial protections of the First Amendment assure that. The issue is a major corporation launching a new crusade in the culture wars and the rippling effects it will have in a country where haters need little encouragement to act out. Hate speech is constitutionally protected but a reason for grave concern all the same.