When employee benefit professionals collectively roll their eyes at nearly every new layer of government regulation, I roll mine right along with them. I have done so since 1988, when the infamous – and laughably draconian – Section 89 proposal sparked some of the loudest catcalling I’d ever heard from this industry and forever made me a skeptic of well-intentioned ideas with
unintended consequences. It was a rude awakening for me, having grown up in an environment where laws were respected and never really questioned.
A Matter of Human Rights
I’m mildly amused and seriously outraged by the recent drama involving Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy publicly proclaiming his support for the so-called biblical definition of the family unit, which offended activists from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.
A circus-like atmosphere predictably ensued, with critics and proponents of gay marriage staging their respective protests and
love-ins for the restaurant chain. The latest spectacle: gay rights activists staging a “kiss day” at Chick-fil-A eateries. Late-night comics must be having a field day.
I wonder if any randy heterosexual men were calling for Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried to reprise their very naughty and wet lesbian kiss from “Jennifer’s Body?!” Or is it just me?!
But seriously, folks. Here are two brief observations from the business side of this issue:
* When are captains of industry ever going to learn to keep their mouths shut about hot-button issues and stick to making widgets? Cathy’s comments show a real lack of judgment. I realize that he’s deeply religious, but why not also have the same separation of church and state we enjoy in government extend to business? Besides, why would any business owner take the chance of alienating prospective customers? I guess it's no big deal at Chick-fil-A, which closes on Sundays. I wonder how many employees of Chick-fil-A are homosexuals.
* As someone who has closely covered the human resources industry for nearly 25 years as both a journalist and hired shill, I’m wondering how episodes like this one shape an organization’s commitment to sensitivity training and tolerance of employees from all walks of life? I’d imagine it could pose a real moral and business dilemma.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I first discovered the joy of Chick-fil-A’s tasty chicken nuggets, dipping sauces and wonderful waffle fries in the mid-1980s while working for a newspaper in North Carolina, where I’m sure that bible-belters are standing by Cathy as never before. The product is delicious and speaks for itself.
How I will feel about patronizing the fast-food chain from this point on is anyone’s guess. I suppose it all depends on whether I can overcome my craving for their charming cuisine.
All kidding aside, I cannot escape a much larger humanitarian view. Is a person’s sexual preference really anyone’s business? Is it still relevant in the year 2012? Does it compromise an individual’s character or integrity? Is the traditional view of marriage a deal-breaker in society? Does it trump more practical issues, such as the economy?
Here’s a more pointed political question: How do conservative Republicans with Libertarian views square their passion for freedom, liberty and the uncompromising pursuit of happiness without any government intervention with a disdain for gay marriage? It’s sort of akin to opposing abortion but supporting physician-assisted suicide – or vice versa.
From this perspective, I strongly believe the proper stance on gay marriage is simple: Let homosexuals marry. Why not celebrate love and encourage more monogamous commitments, not to mention all the legal rights that accompany such a union? To me, this is one of those issues where there are not two sides. While I respect the view of people who vehemently oppose gay marriage, I know in my heart and in my mind that they are dead wrong.
We’re living in the ultimate age of enlightenment. We have tremendous knowledge. We have power. Let’s use these tools for the good of humankind rather than be messengers of hate and intolerance. Voicing one’s support for gay marriage is about courageous leadership.
Just think of how much better off Corporate America would be on the world stage with more of that kind of thinking in the boardroom.