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Freedom Of Speech, Religion And Chicken Sandwiches: Respecting Differences Of Opinion

Chick-fil-A is in the middle of a media firestorm after its president, Dan Cathy, told the Baptist Press his company was “guilty as charged” for supporting the traditional family last week. Cathy was labeled a bigot by some, but reading Cathy’s quotes reveals there was nothing hateful in what he said.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” he said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Cathy is president of a company that believe “in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.” “While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees,” he said. In light of these statements, the loaded term “bigot” seems a bit harsh. Of course, you can easily argue the term “supportive of the family” is a coded phrase that implicates that Cathy is not supportive of gay marriage. But it raises the question of whether someone can be pro-traditional marriage without being anti-gay.

Despite not supporting gay marriage, former Republican presidential candidate and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman will be honord by the LGBT rights group Equality Utah in September at their annual Allies Dinner. While governor, Huntsman did say he supported civil unions for same-sex couples and legislation that protected gays and lesbians from discrimination in the workplace, however. But Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune honoring Huntsman wasn’t about a particular position he took.

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“It’s much more about a person’s presence in the community and ability to create cultural and attitudinal change and truly their presence and their outward demonstration of Equality Utah’s values,” Balken said.

So both Chick-fil-A and Huntsman support traditional marriage, but the former is facing boycotts and the latter is being honored by an LGBT rights group. Everyone is allowed to their own opinion and freedom of speech, and Chick-fil-A hasn’t done anything illegal. There haven’t been any instances of the company discriminating against its employment or customers because of their sexuality at this time. But while we’re afforded freedom of speech, we don’t have the freedom from the consequences of our speech as illustrated by individuals boycotting Chick-fil-A.

The issue of people of faith not supporting gay marriage for religious reasons is reminiscent in some ways to the argument over contraception earlier this year. The ultimate compromise in a debate over a contraceptive coverage policy allowed religious hospitals and universities the freedom to not offer contraception if it violated their religious beliefs. Polls showed a majority of Catholics supported the compromise.

In dealing with issues many feel are moral issues, seeking a compromise and respecting those with differing views is more helpful than throwing around the word “bigot.” Nevada’s Sen. Harry Reid, who converted to Mormonism while in college, offered a solution when he first voiced his support of gay marriage.

“My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But in a civil society, I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they want, and it’s no business of mine if two men or two women want to get married,” Reid said.

Like the debate over contraceptive coverage, gay marriage is a theological issue for some. But as Reid said, living in a civil society means that sometimes people will chose to do things with their lives that you wouldn’t chose to do with yours. Whether that means supporting traditional marriage or supporting gay marriage, respecting people of differing opinons and seeking solutions is more helpful than fighting hate with hate.

Follow Hunter Schwarz (@hunterschwarz) on Twitter

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