On June 16, 2012 while on a syndicated radio talk show, The Ken Coleman Show, Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy made what was seen as an inflammatory statement. Cathy stated: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. Dan Cathy can express his religious views and opinions as his right. However, his religious views should not infringe on the rights to equality for all people under that same constitution. Mr. Cathy has the right to his religious notion that ‘his God’ (which apparently is God to all in the United States of America) will cast judgement on those of us who do not look like him, act like him, think like him or believe what he believes to be true. By making the above statement – Mr. Cathy blatantly expressed an opinion that will and has an impact on his business by potentially isolating many of his customers who do not have the same religious beliefs. Should every American (or anyone in the world for that matter) not have the same federal protection and rights? Entitlements and rights should not be given to some and not others because of their religious beliefs or affiliation.
DOMA – The Defence of Marriage Act, denies spousal survivorship benefits, insurance benefits for government employees and filing joint tax returns to same-sex couples.
The General Accounting Office issued a report in 1997 identifying “1,049 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status or in which marital status is a factor”. In updating its report in 2004, the GAO found that this number had risen to 1,138 as of December 31, 2003. With respect to Social Security, housing, and food stamps, the GAO found that “recognition of the marital relationship is integral to the design of the program[s].” The other major categories the GAO identified were veteran’s benefits, including pensions and survivor benefits; taxes on income, estates, gifts, and property sales; and benefits due federal employees, both civilian and military. Among many specifics, it noted the rights of the widow or widower of the creator of a copyrighted work and certain financial disclosure requirements that include the spouses of members of Congress and certain officers of the federal government. Education loan programs and agriculture price support and loan programs also implicate spouses. Financial aid to “family farms” is restricted to those in which “a majority interest is held by individuals related by marriage or blood.”
Because the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) controls most employee benefits provided by private employers, DOMA prevents most employers in the private sector from providing health care, pension, and disability benefits to same-sex spouses on an equal footing with opposite-sex spouses. ERISA does not affect employees of state and local government or churches, nor does it extend to such benefits as employee leave and vacation.
Under DOMA, persons in same-sex marriages are not considered married for immigration purposes. U.S. citizens and permanent residents in same-sex marriages can not petition for their spouses, nor can they be accompanied by their spouses into the U.S. on the basis of a family or employment-based visa. A non-citizen in such a marriage can not use it as the basis for obtaining a waiver or relief from removal from the U.S.
Following the end of the U.S. military’s ban on service by open gays and lesbians, “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” in September 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that DOMA limited the military’s ability to extend the same benefits to military personnel in same-sex marriages as their peers in opposite-sex marriages received, notably health benefits. Same-sex spouses of military personnel are denied the same access to military bases, legal counseling, and housing allowances provided to different-sex spouses.
Sally Ride – an American citizen who served her country and has the privilege of being the youngest American in space. She was a physicist and astronaut and joined NASA in 1978 – she was the first American woman to enter into low Earth orbit (1983). Sally recently lost her battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 61. She has left behind her partner of 27 years – Tam O’Shaughnessy. As per the federal Defence of Marriage Act, Tam is denied spousal survivorship rights that are open to straight couples through having their marriage or partnership recognized by the federal court. Federal entitlement should be accessible to all American’s despite of their sexual orientation – hence the reason that DOMA is unconstitutional.
Marriage should be a right for all – along with the federal rights that come with being married. Religious institutions should not have the authority or final word as to who should have those rights. Religious beliefs should not have any bearing on federal laws or entitlements. So Dan Cathy – you can have your ‘Chick-Fil-A’ appreciation day (poor chickens) and have the support of conservatives such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, that is your right! But – when your views infringe on the rights of those who don’t have the same ideologies as you do – why should we deny them their federal rights, it is not American, it is not constitutional and it is not right.
We should continue our support of companies and businesses that ensure equality for all their clients and employees. If Chick-Fil-A does not support equality for everyone, then go somewhere where they will not be biased of your skin colour, religious beliefs, sexual-orientation, values and gender. I cringe when I think about what people had to go through during the civil rights movement not to long ago and empathize with them. I am amazed that we allowed the mistreatment of African-Americans to go on as long as it did. I can’t imagine a world where we have separate washrooms for white and black people, separate drinking fountains, not being able to sit where you want to in a bus, not being able to date someone out of your race, going to the same restaurants etc….I imagine those things every time I read about companies and individuals wanting to deny civil rights to a group of people based on their religious beliefs.
Here are a list of companies involved in marriage equality:
Google, CBS, Gap, Aetna, Starbucks, Xerox – these companies have signed an amicus brief that said that the Defence of Marriage Act (which bans the recognition of gay couples on a federal level) hurts business. Companies including General Mills, Starbucks, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Nike and Target have recently donated millions to marriage equality campaigns. You can request a comprehensive list by visiting:
My final thought – How will allowing gay couples to marry and receive the same federal liberties as straight couples effect the lives of those who are opposed to marriage equality? Many religious people felt the same way about inter-racial marriage as they do about same-sex marriage. Has inter-racial marriage destroyed civilization as we know it? No, it has not. Marriage equality is not going to open the flood gates of people wanting to marry their pets on inanimate objects. Marriage equality is not going to have an effect on your ability to go on with your life and, marriage equality will not bring on the wrath of God – I have my views about religion but, I certainly believe that God would definitely want equality for all because God loves ALL his children.
Together, we can make the world a more positive one!
***images are not mine and do not take credit for them***