8.04.2012 | Talking turkey about chicken

It does not surprise me that the civil rights debate of our generation centers around a chicken sandwich. The civil rights movement of the 1950s took off from a Woolworth's lunch counter. It was a basic question of fairness. To be treated in the same way every other citizen is treated.

At the end of the day, that's what same-sex marriage is about. Back then, people might have complained about the students sitting at the counter not having a "real job." The complaint today is against lazy students who use social media instead of taking to the streets. But with the reception Occupy Wall Street has gotten, do you blame them?

In a country where protest is limited to "free speech zones" and Nixon's "silent majority" reigns supreme, commercial speech is rising to a new level of importance it hasn't had before. Add to that our dysfunctional politics, Congress' low approval rating, and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that authorizes unlimited campaign donations, it makes sense people might feel more empowered these days as consumers (and as bloggers) than as voters.

What has made me more sick than the fact that we're arguing over a chicken sandwich is that so many people have seen fit to buy a chicken sandwich to support the bigoted views of that chain's owner. A friend of mine seriously argued that the owner's views are justified because that restaurant doesn't discriminate in hiring, or in providing his business's services.

That's fine, but when your business spends money on making sure that my fellow citizens are denied equal protection under the law, then it doesn't deserve my business. And cities that are seeking to keep it from being in business within their city limits are within their rights as well.

Some have said this is an issue of religious freedom. Fine. But what about the religious freedom of gays who want to get married? What societal interest is there in limiting their rights? What societal interest did we have in making sure that people of mixed races didn't get married 50 years ago?

So enjoy that chicken sandwich. But please wash it down with a sense of appreciation of how far we've come, and how far we have yet to go.