Chick-fil-A And Bigotry: One Aspect Of What Marriage Is

“Chick-Fil-A Shattered Sales Records On ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day'” so reads the headline at Business Insider.

Many are not so happy about this. In a unintentionally hilarious video (especially when he points to a distant group of young people and comments on them), the CFO of Vante—now ex-CFO—berates a young woman working at Chick-fil-A and calls the company a “hateful” corporation.

An employee who self-labels herself as a “closeted gay woman” wrote in the Daily Beast, “Customers sang ‘God Bless America’ in the dining room. They vocalized their support for ‘family values’ in a way that made me want to vomit.” And don’t miss the interesting argument of this young woman.

Many other are saying that those who oppose gay “marriage” are “bigots.” This is a false charge and (at least) based on a misunderstanding of what marriage is.

My dear readers, marriage is not a contract between two people. It is an understanding between two people and society. And not just the society of the United States. Marriage is an understanding between two people and everybody else.

This is easy to see. Except in rare instances, a man and woman who marry do not sign a contract with one another. At best, they fill out a form which informs their local government of the union. And this is only necessary because of certain housekeeping matters, such as tax, visitation rights and the like, that differ by locality the world over, and differ in a locality by time. But the pair are not married in their eyes, or ours, by a civil contract. They commit to one another; they swear an oath; they promise before God; they unite in love.

Consider: when this pair, now married, travels far from their homes, they are not required to prove their marriage by document. The custom and naturalness of the bonding and their word of it are proof enough of the claim of marriage. Documents are only required when the couple want to make themselves subject to the housekeeping matters of the new locality.

When a married couple encounter others, here or abroad, they expect to be treated as a married couple, in virtue of the oath they swore. This is because the couple expects others will honor the understanding that a man and woman who mate are a couple. However, if it becomes known that the two people have not made the marriage oath (“We’re just living together”) then everybody treats this non-pair, now just two separate people, in a different way, even if this treatment is only a subtle change.

What those who scream “Bigot!” are asking is thus not to be allowed to join together in pairs (or in groups, etc.), because that is already allowed. What they are asking is that everybody else, especially here in the United States, but also abroad, change their behavior. Despite suffering from other flaws, this vacates the common argument given that “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry somebody gay.” The change in the definition of marriage is not only a difference in the kind of two people it joins, but it must also change the way society (every society) and the couple interact. Supporters are thus not asking for the right to join, but are asking the government to force everybody else in society who don’t support gay “marriage” to change their behavior.

Now many, the majority as it stands, in the USA, a certainly the majority of the rest of the world, have a natural law or a religious or other philosophical and theological understanding of what marriage is. This means that those who hold these views, if gay “marriage” is legalized, will be forced to either reject those views or to not voice them or to not act on them in certain situations. Of course, those that actually reject their philosophy will be small in number. The majority will continue to hold their view. Legalized gay “marriage” may force these folks to change their bookkeeping behavior, but it cannot change their fundamental behavior.

To these people, a document from the government does not make a marriage, and they will not (at least internally) treat it as such, no matter how much this is desired. The victory won in courts will not translate to a moral victory. It will also not translate to all those other places in the world which will continue to hold to tradition.


  1. George Boggs

    Being a Bayesean myself (via signal detection theory), I rarely disagree with you on technical matters. But marriage is more than a contract and more than an understanding. It’s a covenant.

    A covenant is not a contract, it’s the establishment of a kinship relationship. When the covenant is established, one party becomes a member of another person’s family, clan, or tribe.

    The fact that government is involved in marriage is more an accident of history than anything else. I suspect government got involved when secular courts undertook adjudication of estates. The legal use of the word “covenant” has evolved since then, but, even in that context, covenants still retain an aura of “specialness”

  2. Briggs

    George Boggs,

    And we don’t disagree here either.

  3. The second false charge allowed to remain unchallenged is that lack of support, or disapproval, equates to “hate” of something or another. This is simply childish emotion speaking, not logic. If one support the Raiders when they play against the Broncos, then in that world one must ergo “hate” Denver? No, Brigss is spot on. those making the noise are demanding “everybody else . . . . change their behavior” – and beliefs or they will hold their breath and turn blue in the face.

    Is society possibly being too sensitive in not pointing out the lack of intellectual honesty displayed by those expounding that illogical fallacy? Yeah, I think we are. They are being dishonest. We must tell them we know it and reject their infantile ranting.


  4. Eric

    Dr. Briggs,

    We see eye to eye on the mechanics of the bookkeeping and expectations-management aspects of marriage, but I propose that your reservation on redefining marriage is cultural, and is readily resolvable as an issue of protocol.

    For example, do you treat Muslim man and his four wives as married? They have done the proper bookkeeping and oaths or their locale, so these marriages are legitimate. Culturally, this arrangement is likely different than what you would expect, so you may have an issue how to treat this arrangement, which is protocol. (In this case it may help to understand that the man married the four women individually; the women didn’t marry each other.)

    You may have to adjust your “fundamental behavior”, which merely means developing a new protocol, or learning one that society may have already developed.

    I sympathize with the reluctance to have to learn a new thing, and then have to learn when that thing should be employed, then have the bother of dealing with this each time it arises.


  5. GoneWithTheWind

    I understand the take no prisoners and kill everyone tactic the gay activists have adopted. There hope is to intimidate and control anyone who, in their opinion, opposes their agenda. What I don’t understand is why after using this for years against the Boy Scouts and other religious groups they still think it works or wins converts to their cause. I do not know if the gay movement has leaders or if they meet and discuss tactics but if they do I think it’s time they rein in the radicals and their scorchered earth rhetoric. Surely a diplomatic approach will be more effective. The reality is that today and in this country there has never been a more accepting and positive environment for gays. Why then with so much going their way would they prefer to wage hateful alienation over a more moderate dialogue? As a bystander it appears to me that the radical gay activists are on a suicide mission and show no evidence they have thought this through.

  6. Ray

    I find it hilarious that the oh so tolerant are having a hysterical tantrum calling people that don’t agree with them hateful bigots. It’s like the thief that accuses everybody else of being a thief.

  7. I’ll immediately snatch your rss feed as I can not find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly let me realize in order that I may subscribe. Thanks.

  8. j ferguson

    When SWMBO and I applied for a license to marry in Northern Virginia, there was a line on the form following the word Race. I filled it with Marine Marathon.

    We were then told by the clerk, that this would be fine if we intended to marry in some other jurisdiction, but not this one. I asked for the choices. None seemed quite accurate given my somewhat complex ancestry so I asked if non-black would do.

    “No. Get with the program. You know perfectly well, Mr. Ferguson, what we’re trying to do here.”

    I tried fractional Native-American. That didn’t fly either. So I caved.


  9. Big Mike

    I have a very lovely young niece who lives in a homosexual relationship. Despite my numerous tactful inquiries over the years, she has never really articulated how her life would be different if she were to “marry” her inamorata, so to this day the practical effect on the lives of those at the center of the controversy of allowing homosexuals to marry others of the same sex is a mystery to me.

    Now the chicken sandwich controversy isn’t at all about homosexual marriage, as far as I can see. It’s about the right of the owner of a business to speak as he pleases and not have government officials pervert procedural and government processes to force that person to pretend to conform to a certain belief.

    I think that many of the supporters of the restaurant would have rallied behind the restaurant regardless of the content of the comments made by the owner: it’s about the right of a business owner to not face arbitrarily abuses by local tin-pot tyrants.

  10. RickA

    Dr. Briggs:

    In Minnesota, I cannot get married unless I apply for a marriage license.

    Minnesota wants to make sure that both people are old enough, not cousins (or closer), not married to another person, etc.

    Does your analysis change if two 14 year olds are married under say Kansas law (lets say they allow 14 and over to marry) – but that marriage would not be allowed in Minnesota (under 18 need consent of parents).

    Ditto for cousins – some states allow 1st cousins to marry, most don’t.

    If their state says they are married I would treat them as married, if I ran into them abroad – even if my state didn’t recognize them as married.

    Isn’t gay marriage similar – some states license it, some don’t?

    I am trying to understand the difference between how society views 14 year old marriages or 1st cousin marriages (which varies by locality), and gay marriage (which varies by locality).

  11. Andy

    Come on Briggs. Let the poofters get married and let them be happy. Get back to laughing at bad science, it’s more fun.

  12. ad

    Worth a browse, people:

    Especially liked “As late as the 10th century, the essential part of the wedding itself took place outside the church door. It was not until the 12th century that a priest became part of the wedding ceremony, and not until the 13th century that he actually took charge of the proceedings. Nevertheless, it remained understood that, even as a sacrament, marriage sprang from the free consent of the two partners, and that therefore neither the parents nor the priest nor the government could affect its validity. It thus became possible for couples to get married secretly if they could not obtain anyone else’s approval. “.

  13. michael felong

    Terrific post, great comments. Having said that, There’s something to be said for the concept of marriage as a contract, say, five years with options to renew. One of the advantages of treating marriages as contracts is that, as it is now, marriage is a” contract” the terms of which are decided years later by people not a party to the original contract and with agendas of their own.

  14. You really, really should stick to statistics and science…

    I’m pretty sure the majority of gays couldn’t care less about your worries, and wouldn’t mind being treated by people as if they were “just living together.” They don’t want to “promise before God” or any such thing. They simply want the civil contract you dismiss as a formality, to enjoy the rights that law gives married couples.

    Give them the “housekeeping” and legal enforcement of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, and they will not mind you internally enjoying your moral victory.

  15. Eric

    But, Jaime, they *do* mind. If all they wanted was the civil contract, they’d be lobbying for civil unions. But that’s not enough. They want other people to change their behavior.

  16. RE:”My dear readers, marriage is not a contract between two people. It is an understanding between two people and society”

    I agree that this is what marriage has become, but from a fundamental viewpoint marriage is a contract. A man agrees to purchase exclusive rights to the woman’s reproductive organs and their produce in exchange for a lifetime of financial support. This is why a man could divorce a barren woman and adultery was considered theft.

    In 1860, British courts ruled that the child is the possession of the mother rather than the father (as was previously the case). This ruling began the gradual change from these fundamental principles of the marriage agreement to a union not based on contractual trade but on the level of dedication felt by both parties.

    In the 150 years since we now find marriage begun and ended on what is basically a whim with neither party having any real material stake in the relationship. I cannot vouch for this statistic, but I have heard that 75% of marriages are ended by the woman on grounds as ephemeral as “dissatisfaction”.

    The fact that marriage is no longer seen as a binding contract based on trade is why I see heterosexual marriage as a farce and gay marriage even more so. It lacks any real world foundation. But if people want to play that silly game, be they straight or gay, then so be it.

  17. Some commenters seem to lack awareness of how ancient societies functioned. Even though in past centuries the male of a household appeared to hold the dominant “leading?’ position, powerful fathers often took steps to ensure favorite daughters were not ill-treated in matrimony. History is replete with examples of social and economic maneuverings designed to circumvent tradition to the benefit of a wife.

  18. Noblesse Oblige

    So here we have a society that is unable to discuss rationally, much less deal with:
    — a debt of potentially existential proportions
    — a floundering jobs-generating economy
    — a housing market, and its associated construction industry, in the tank for 4 years with no meaningful change in sight
    — a monumental immigrant issue that begs for resolution
    — an educational system that is failing to prepare our children to fill the high paying, high tech jobs needed to compete in the world market
    — a powerful and well funded clique of science-Mandarins who claim more infallibility in their science than a Pope speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith.

    …. and we do we get off on? Chick-Fil-A.

  19. Bob

    The problem with marriage is married people. A good many don’t seem to stay married, and I don’t see how gay marriage would make anything worse. Let’s let people be people.

    I support the CEO’s right to have a personal opinion that runs contrary to mine.

  20. George Steiner

    Some of you have twigged to the real issue. Which is the next step. The next step in the gay agenda is to promote gay as better than hetero. Coming soon.

  21. Andy

    Are you looking forward to it George?

  22. Sylvain Allard

    Mr Briggs,
    I do agree with some part of your argument and in other parts your argument is very weak.
    Usually, the first reason peoples get married is because they love each other. This is true whether the marriage is between a man and a woman, between two men or between two women. Secondary concerns for people to get married is contractual where it concerns taxes , hospital visitation rights, who gets to take the decisions in life or death matters, etc. Nothing here warrants anything against same sex marriage.
    Civil union which is the same thing as marriage except the oath isn’t made in front of God, Allah, Jehovah, but in front of a government representative. It was first created to permit people who were either atheist, not religious or divorced to get married and benefit the contractual part of the marriage.
    I can’t actually imagine a single instance where I would have to change my behavior toward a couple would they be married or not, gay or not, even if this change was subtle.
    You write:
    «…have a natural law or a religious or other philosophical and theological understanding of what marriage is. This means that those who hold these views, if gay “marriage” is legalized, will be forced to either reject those views or to not voice them or to not act on them in certain situation.»
    Why does anyone have to reject their beliefs because two guys or women are married?
    Does it change anything in your life if they live in a house across from you? No. What does it change in your life that these people are married or not? Nothing. Gay marriage can only be civil. The Catholic Church or any local priest or imam cannot be forced to marry gays, at least here in Canada; this would actually violate the personal freedom of these religious organizations.

  23. Milton Hathaway

    I look at the whole thing as kinda sad. It seems clear to me that what the gay/lesbian community wants is acceptance, and it seems they’ve placed all their chips on legalized same-sex marriage. Why else would they reject ‘everything-but-the-name’ civil unions?

    I don’t understand this emphasis on same-sex marriage from a practical standpoint, either. Recent pre-Obama history has demonstrated that much of the liberal agenda can be achieved through incrementalism, slowly boiling away those disagreeable societal norms and old-timey principles. Why get in people’s faces? Why characterize your opponents as afflicted with physchological disorders (one of the kinder comparisons) or being disciples of history’s worst mass murderers and dictators? Has this approach ever changed an opposing principled mind? Or, looking at it from another angle, what the heck is wrong with your choir that such preaching is deemed necessary? Are they that lacking in commitment to the cause that they need to be fired up this way?

    But the saddest thing, I think, is that the gay/lesbian community believes that acceptance can be legislated or adjudicated. According to their own pronouncements, this belief derives from the perceived similarity in the gay/lesbian experience to the black experience in America. This claimed similarity largely escapes me (and appears to offend many). To me, a better comparison would be the abortion debate since the Roe v Wade decision, at least in terms of societal acceptance. Abortion is legal, but you certainly can’t claim it’s achieved broad acceptance. (Admittedly the comparison breaks down when one realizes that the pro-choicers don’t give a hoot about acceptance; in fact they actually seem to relish the lack thereof.)

    If happiness is the goal, I think the gay/lesbian community should give up on same-sex marriage and accept the peace and contentment that can be derived from ‘everything-but-the-name’ civil unions, and rely on classic liberal incrementalism as their hope for the future. That’s clearly a more promising road to societal acceptance, and has the advantage that they don’t have to live with all that anger and rage.

    Happiness is finding the right wall to beat your head against.

  24. John B

    Mr Briggs: I see you generalise about the World,but you are not up to speed.

    There is, here in the rest of the World, not the unique, standard definition of marriage that you suggest – nor has there been for some time.

    There are two definitions of marriage: religious marriage conducted by clergy in a place of worship with its moral baggage plus the house keeping; civil marriage conducted in secular surroundings by an employee of the State with the house keeping but without the moral claptrap.

    In some Countries it is only the latter which is recognised, and in most Countries the only specification is that the (civil) marriage be between two people – gender irrelevant.

    In France it is usual for people married in other Countries who wish to settle in France to have a French civil marriage to ensure the union is recognised under all aspects, particular property inheritance, of French law.

    Here in Europe your notion that, ” When a married couple encounter others, here or abroad, they expect to be treated as a married couple…” is somewhat quaint.

    In Europe when a couple encounters others, the “others” care less whether they are married or not, often assume they are not, because it is nobody’s business, and the couple doesn’t care what the “others” think anyway.

    As for, ” The change in the definition of marriage is not only a difference in the kind of two people it joins, but it must also change the way society (every society) and the couple interact.”

    Society has already changed, although the USA as ever in such things is at the back of the field: it is just the usual die-hards with fixed ideas who want things to stay the way they want them to be.

  25. Steve Crook

    I confess to being confused by the whole debate (I’m a borderline atheist).

    There seems to be to be two aspects to marriage.

    Firstly, there’s a religious ceremony. It should be up to the religious organisation to determine who they’re prepared to marry in that ceremony. I’d oppose anything that suggested otherwise.

    There’s also a legally recognised contract being formed. The regulations for this are created and enforced by the state. It happens that, when you marry in a church you normally complete both parts.

    In the UK at least, it’s possible to get married without actually having a religious vow at all, or to marry in a religious ceremony that is not recognised as marriage by the state.

    Over here, what people seem to be getting hung up on is the word itself, with ‘people of faith’ objecting to the word being used to describe a purely civil contract. There’s also some concern that once gays are allowed to marry there will be the inevitable equal rights challenge to force churches to marry gays.

    That said, I’m sure that somewhere, there’s already someone preparing to campaign for the right to *legally* marry their pet 🙂

  26. Bob Ludwick

    The real point of the Chick-Fil-A ‘controversy’ was explained succinctly by Dr. Theodore Dalrymple in an interview with ‘FrontPage Magazine:

    ” Dalrymple: Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to. “

  27. george kaplan

    I support gay marriage on the democratic grounds that it offers more misery to more qualified citizens. As for the Gay is better” meme, it’s hard to say.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *