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The right way and the wrong way to protest Chick-fil-A

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 11:06 AM EDT, Tue July 31, 2012
Customers line up at a Chick-fil-A food truck that was targeted by about two dozen protesters last week in Washington.
Customers line up at a Chick-fil-A food truck that was targeted by about two dozen protesters last week in Washington.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: I was a Chick-fil-A fan until I heard of its stance on gay rights
  • He says the Constitution doesn't allow mayors to ban Chick-fil-A based on its president's views
  • The Constitution does permit people to peacefully protest, he says

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs

(CNN) -- Not since that cranky old lady asked "where's the beef?" has a fast food chain had an ad as funny as the Chick-fil-A cows begging people to "Eat Mor Chikin."

And when I moved to Atlanta, where the franchise company is based, I did. Then I found out the company was funneling portions of its proceeds to fight gay rights. Now I'm back to eating chicken, and not chikin.

This is the U. S. Constitution at work -- freedom of speech meets freedom of expression.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel, Boston's Thomas Menino and a handful of other mayors threatening to ban Chick-fil-A because of anti-gay marriage remarks made by its president, Dan Cathy? Not so much.

Are you demonstrating at Chick-fil-A this week?

Such a position may sound noble. It may be coming from a good place in the officials' hearts. But thankfully it is unconstitutional.

Chick-Fil-A gets the boot
Mayor: Chick-fil-A not 'Chicago' values
Blocking construction of Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A uproar over gay marriage

The last thing anyone, liberal or conservative, should want is local government censoring what a private citizen can say by way of withholding permits and licenses. With the exception of a few examples, such as falsely yelling fire in a crowded space, freedom of speech isn't contingent upon what a person says.

So members of the Ku Klux Klan can legally rally and spew hate about black people. Westboro Baptist Church can protest and say terrible things about a soldier during his funeral. And Cathy can say whatever he wants about gay people.

That's the U.S. Constitution at work.

You know what else is constitutional? Rahm and Thomas making out with each other in protest.

In response to Cathy's remarks -- and the fact Chick-Fil-A has donated millions to organizations that fight gay rights -- the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is organizing a same-sex kiss-in to be held at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country Friday. I'm not sure if Rahm and the others are free that day, but unlike their talk of banning the franchise, their participation in the lip lock is totally legal.

It's an unconventional protest for sure, one that lends itself to great video, funny interviews and front page stories with women kissing and the word "chicks" somewhere in the headline. If you're thinking of joining in, may I suggest making out before eating a chikin sandwich. Kiss-ins are so much more enjoyable when protesters have fresh breath.

Opinion: Chick-fil-A and free speech

Perhaps more entertaining than the kisses will be seeing how Chick's management handles the situation.

Having the CEO ramble on about gay people bringing God's wrath down upon the nation is a PR nightmare, but it's manageable. Video of staff kicking people out of its restaurants for being gay -- and let's face it, if straight people are kissing and get to stay, that's exactly what it will be -- well, that just opens the franchise up for a more significant financial backlash.

Boycotts, like freedom of speech, are constitutional.

Perhaps sensing that could be the next step in this debacle, the company recently issued a statement on its Facebook page that read in part, "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect --- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

This echoes remarks made by Cathy last year when he was asked about the company's donations to anti-gay groups. Back then he said "We're not anti-anybody. Our mission is to create raving fans."

Well, he's got people raving, but I don't think this is what he had in mind.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he "could not agree more with the mayors in terms of their positions, and I couldn't disagree more with Chick-fil-A and their position, and if it's appropriate for us to take a hard stand and say, 'You're not welcomed,' we'll consider it."

Again, that's not necessarily the Constitution at work, but it does sound like another pair of high-profile lips are eligible for Friday's kiss-in.

To be fair, Cathy does have a lot of supporters who are choosing to eat mor chikin.

My Take: Chick-fil-A controversy reveals religious liberty under threat

Rick Santorum recently live tweeted during a Chick-fil-A visit, Sarah Palin was photographed this weekend with a bag of chikin and Mike Huckabee declared this upcoming Wednesday as "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."

This is what the forefathers had in mind when they composed the Constitution: liberals making out during lunch and conservatives stuffing their face with chikin in the name of Jesus.

God, I love this country.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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