Personally, I strongly support the concept of gay marriage. Nor have I ever been within a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
But for many of us who spend a good portion of our lives concerned about the encroaching loss of freedoms on the Internet, watching the unfolding of the ongoing Chick-fil-A "gay marriage" saga has been a painfully depressing experience.
When Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy stated that he defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman -- that is, the historically traditional viewpoint -- not only he, but also the individual restaurants and workers in the Chick-fil-A chain were immediately subjected to what can only be described as a scathing round of attacks, based solely on Cathy's citing his personal opinion.
Ironically, many of these attacks came from individuals, parties, and groups who are normally associated with progressive attitudes and causes (a notable exception was the virtually always consistent ACLU, which quickly noted dangers in the expanding vitriol).
Naturally, it is completely within the rights of individuals and non-government groups to protest views with which they don't agree, and in the case of a situation such as the Chick-fil-A controversy, to vote with their wallets by withholding their patronage from the firm.
But the major turn of events, which had the perverse impact of triggering the "Streisand Effect" and an outpouring of support for Chick-fil-A, was the pronouncements of various big city politicians implying that they would try to specifically ban, eject, or otherwise interfere with the business of Chick-fil-A in their jurisdictions, based solely on Dan Cathy's gay marriage remark (not, apparently, based on any accusations of violated regulations or laws on the part of Chick-fil-A).
That some politicians would cynically sense an opportunity to score points in this realm is not unexpected, even though such actions by government targeting Chick-fil-A would be slam dunk unconstitutional. After all, the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment was specifically drafted to protect unpopular viewpoints from government attacks. The Founding Fathers knew all too well what attacks on speech by government were all about.
And in fact, most of these opportunistic politicos quickly reversed their boisterous threats against Chick-fil-A, presumably after horrified calls from their legal staffs.
But again, this is the sort of behavior we have unfortunately come to expect from many politicians.
What was much less expected, and extremely disheartening, was to see various progressive forces cheering the obviously repressive threats of those politicians, with an explicit and frankly terrifying disregard for constitutionally-protected First Amendment freedom of speech concerns.
They were distressingly somewhat reminiscent of the torch-bearing mobs of old, substituting emotion for logic -- in this case equating an opinion regarding gay marriage with illegal discrimination. (Obviously, any cases of genuine discrimination in violation of laws would be actionable, but by and large this was not being invoked in these protests.)
Those of us who spoke out in favor of the First Amendment in this case, even as we expressed our support for gay marriage, were still mercilessly attacked in some venues.
Outside of the shame and counterproductive attention that the First Amendment deniers have brought upon themselves in this matter, these events also may illuminate key aspects of the battle for freedom of speech on the Internet as well.
Much like the protesters attempting revenge on Chick-fil-A in response to a legal pronouncement of its president's opinion, we see various forces on the Internet attempting to impose their own interests via repressive actions against the Internet at large.
Various traditional entertainment interests such as the RIAA and MPAA, and newer groups like the cyber-fearmongers exploiting overblown cyberwar fears, continue their efforts at subverting the legal and legislative systems to benefit their own financial interests -- at vast cost to the legitimate cause of Internet freedoms.
Calls for search engine censorship, vast surveillance and anti-encryption regimes, oppressive domain takedowns absent legitimate due process -- and on and on. These are the tools being deployed to undermine freedom on the Net.
And much like those politicians willing to throw the Constitution's First Amendment under the bus in the name of denouncing Chick-fil-A, we see groups aligned against Internet freedoms who are so focused on their own narrow interests, that they simply don't care how much collateral and long-lasting damage they'll do to the Internet community and freedoms in general in pursuit of their goals.
Of course the global Internet doesn't have a First Amendment, nor a Constitution at all for that matter.
So we must depend on national governments -- or perhaps more realistically, the world's Internet users themselves -- to see clearly the enormous risks brought to bear by muzzling freedom of speech, especially on the Net, and particularly when controversial issues are in focus.
Throughout human history, the most powerful weapons of suppression used by governments against their own citizens haven't been swords or arrows, or even guns and bullets -- but rather control over information and speech.
When we willingly endorse the obliteration of others' speech rights, even for what we might consider to be worthy causes, we inevitably provide powerful ammunition for those forces who will joyously use the same logic and means to attack our most cherished goals and beliefs.
Perhaps something to keep in mind -- at home, at work, on the Internet, and even at the local fast food drive-through.