Rahm Emanuel Campaigned for 2 Presidents Who Opposed Gay Marriage

So how can he claim, a mere election cycle later, that an anti-gay marriage CEO is unfit to sell fast food in Chicago?

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Many voices have beat me to clucking at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for suggesting that its appropriate to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening a Windy City store because its CEO opposes gay marriage. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh explained why the threatened action is a violation of the First Amendment. Glenn Greenwald insisted that all liberals should object to the awful precedent it would set. Wrote Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, "You don't hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway."

All that's left to say is what Michael Brendan Dougherty alludes to: As mayor of a safely Democratic city, Emanuel avows that "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values. They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you're gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values." In his initial formulation, since walked back, opposition to gay marriage is cast as so awful a transgression as to render one unfit to sell Chicagoans fast food! Yet Emanuel had no problem helping Barack Obama to attain the most powerful office in America while Obama was against gay marriage, a position the president clung to until this year. Nor did he shy away from Bill Clinton, helping him to win the Democratic primary in 1992 and serving as an adviser even after Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act.

Yes, times have changed, as have the positions that Clinton and Obama take on same-sex marriage. It nevertheless seems awfully cynical to decry gay marriage opponents as unfit for commerce in your city just a few years after you were enthusiastically touting a gay marriage opponent as the best man to run the most powerful executive office in the country and the word. It's the sort of double standard that lends credibility to the conservative charge that some Democratic politicians use identity politics as an opportunistic cudgel that is wielded disingenuously. Conservatives who advance positions that many Democrats held as recently as the last election cycle are deemed bigots unfit for polite company or equal treatment under the law.

Gay marriage proponents, of whom I am one, are going to prevail on this issue. We should do so magnanimously. Liberal bloggers have been admirably vocal in defense of the CEO of Chick-fil-A's rights. Let's hope that the Democratic mayors who started this controversy are genuine in their contrition.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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