The Muppets are well within their rights to shun Chick-fil-A after the chain restaurant donated to anti-gay groups and its president, Dan Cathy, made statements implying a strong, biblically-based stand against same-sex marriage. They're private, um, puppets. But public officials have a responsibility to carry out their ministerial tasks fairly and evenhandedly — and to uphold the principle of free speech — whether or not they like a business executive's social or political stances. We disagree heartily with Cathy, but are far more troubled by the reaction of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who vowed to block Chick-fil-A's effort to open an outlet in that city.
Cathy's recent pronouncements on marriage provoked a storm of protest as well as support. Jim Henson Co. announced it would sign no more deals to feature its toys at the chicken restaurant. There were threats to boycott the company's food. Others swore to boycott the Muppets.
Boycotts are a time-honored way for consumers and groups to express their views through their spending power, though it's worth noting that just as Americans have split along more divisive lines politically, so have their shopping habits. Some people won't travel to Utah because of Mormon support for Proposition 8; others won't step foot in aJ.C. Penneybecause of its ads featuring same-sex couples. As both a private citizen and a prominent public figure, Menino is welcome to abstain from fried chicken sandwiches and urge others to do likewise.