Denver: Hey, Let’s Shut Down Businesses That Oppose Gay Marriage
David Harsanyi
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Stop bellyaching about Washington. All the country’s best fascists are on your local city council.

Not long ago, Colorado became a leader in the fight against religious freedom, when its Civil Rights Commission, self-appointed ministers of justice and theology, decided that a shopkeeper who refuses to participate in a gay wedding ceremony must be smeared and fined out of business. A Colorado appeals court says this is kosher, finding that the brittle sensitivities of a cakeless couple outweighed the constitutional rights of Christian business owners.

Now, in an effort to save everyone some time, the cultural imperialists at the Denver City Council—which, to be fair, have long exhibited authoritarian impulses*—have decided to skip the pretense of some trumped-up injustice and jumped right to discriminating against a businesses solely because of the beliefs of its CEO.

The Denver Council’s Business Development Committee has stalled a seven-year deal with Chick-fil-A because CEO Dan Cathy spoke out against gay marriage back in 2012. Cathy, after being flogged for this misconduct, backed off , saying he regretted getting involved. But that won’t do. There are no prisoners in this culture war. So the council will meet in couple of weeks to take up the topic again. Not so the members can take time to chew over the significance of a city punishing its citizens for their thoughts and beliefs, or even to weigh the importance of tolerance in a vibrant city like Denver. They’re waiting to have a closed-door committee hearing with city attorneys, who will brief them on the legal implications and practicality of shutting down apostates.

The only thing that might stop Denver from pulling this concession from an apologetic Christian, then, is a few risk-averse bureaucrats. This, even though Chick-fil-A has not been accused of any infraction or crime; no one has even suggested it’s guilty of make-believe acts of discrimination. Chick-fil-A has given assurances, in fact, as all other concessionaires at Denver International Airport (DEN) restaurants have, it will follow nondiscrimination policies laid out by law, which include protections for sexual orientation.

So what’s the point? Well, Robin Kniech, council person, asked a concessionaire this question: “If the national corporation with which you are affiliated once again puts themselves at the center of a national debate about depriving people and their families of rights, would you as a concessionaire have any ability to influence that?”

“I don’t believe so,” he answered.

“I don’t think you would, either,” Kniech says. “And that’s my concern.”

So that’s her concern? Setting aside her absurd oversimplification of the debate surrounding marriage, since when is it the interest of a council person to monitor the political activities of citizens and wonder how she deals with vendors who displease her sensibilities? Do Americans with minority opinions function under some different set of laws? The only person with the power to deprive anyone or their families of rights, in this case, is the council. So please tell me how Kniech isn’t a petty tyrant?

Of course, Denver is not alone. A few years back, Rahm Emanuel supported a Chicago alderman’s efforts to block Chick-Fil-A from opening in his city, because, as the media likes to say, the “anti-gay views” of the CEO—which, only a couple of years beforehand, was the anti-gay view of the president and Rahm Emanuel. The council didn’t go through with it, after “assurances” from the company that the virtue of Chicago would be protected.

This reminded me that, among all that vacuous whining of Denver council members, I read this bit in The Denver Post and had to chuckle: Council members “said DIA’s reputation was at stake, although airport officials view the concession as a big potential money-maker.”

DIA’s reputation? For the historical record, the airport was a massive boondoogle built on a mile-high heap of cronyism, corruption, and government abuse. The idea the city council wants to defend the sanctity of the airport from the corruption of delicious chicken sandwiches—rather than just politicizing every morel of American life in an effort to institute ideological purity—is risible.

Denver Councilman Paul Lopez, who is leading the intellectual charge for the ban—a task that meshes poorly with his skill set—says that, in the end, opposition to the chain at DIA is “really, truly a moral issue.” Now, when the Founders told us that government can make no law respecting an establishment of religion, I took it to mean that the belief system of a union-installed sock puppet on a city council would be completely irrelevant in matters of expression and faith. Really, truly.

And if personal morality is the guiding role of city councils, as Katrina Trinko points out in The Daily Signal, there is plenty else to go on:

If the Denver City Council is concerned about the morality of the businesses at the airport, they should take a closer look at two current occupants: Ben and Jerry’s and Starbucks.

According to 2nd Vote, Starbucks Foundation has donated to Planned Parenthood, while Starbucks has been ‘listed as a company that matches employees’ gifts to Planned Parenthood.’ Ben and Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, has donated to Planned Parenthood. Neither Starbucks nor Ben and Jerry’s responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment in July when asked about their support for Planned Parenthood.

Now, everyone is free to boycott and protest whomever they please. Citizens and elected officials have every right to work to cut off taxpayer funding to businesses and institutions they find morally distasteful. But if the city council of Anytown, USA were to concoct reasons to deny permits to gay business owners who supported same-sex marriage, many Americans would find that rightfully appalling. If you’re okay with the idea of a city council denying orthodox Christians who believe in traditional marriage the same freedom, you’re a massive hypocrite—and probably worse.

*Confession: I covered the Denver City Council as a metro columnist, and its endless nannyistic intrusions made me, as Ann Coulter might say, despise it with the hot, hot hate of a 1,000 suns.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.

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