Some commentators supporting the referendum on same-sex marriage this fall in Maine have been patting themselves on the back, saying that polls are showing an unbeatable margin for their side.
They may be right, but not necessarily. Polls before previous votes have shown large leads for the side pushing wholesale changes in the meaning of marriage, too, but the lead vanished on Election Day.
In truth, such claims of inevitable victory are a political tactic, designed to discourage opponents from contributing to the defense of marriage or going to the polls to vote “no” on this radical measure.
Fortunately, there are enough races on the ballot Nov. 6 to attract a large number of Mainers. Supporters of a “yes” vote shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch.
Speaking of that, Benjamin Franklin once suggested our national bird should have been the turkey, not the eagle — many European monarchies used eagles, but turkeys were uniquely ours — but it begins to look like the humble chicken might be an even better all-American avian avatar.
Not, of course, chicken as in “cowardly,” but chicken as in “sandwich.”
“Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Aug. 1 was underreported by the major media. Most national papers buried the story inside or didn’t mention it at all, and, while NBC and ABC ran significant pieces, CBS ignored it.
That doesn’t mean the facts didn’t get out, however,. The fast-food chain (whose closest outlets to Maine are in Nashua, N.H., and Peabody, Mass.) became national news because its chief operating officer, Dan Cathy, stated publicly that he supports his Christian faith’s view of marriage as properly being between one man and one woman.
Despite the fact that the chain does not reject people with same-sex attraction as either employees or customers, Cathy’s comments — which were nothing new for the company, which keeps all of its 1,600-plus outlets closed on Sundays — ignited a media firestorm.
After big-city mayors in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and New York said that a corporate expression of support for traditional marriage was sufficient cause to reject any applications to open outlets in their cities, public opposition swelled in turn.
Not against Chick-fil-A, however, but against the mayors, who apparently live in places where the opinions of moderate and conservative Americans escape the notice of resident liberal leaders.
These clueless elitists seem not to understand why insulting people who support traditional marriage as “bigots” has outraged millions.
So they must have been surprised when Americans decided to vote with their feet — and in this case, their feet had wings. And thighs. And drumsticks.
The online media and some TV channels where news value outweighs ideology, were filled with accounts of people flocking (sorry) to Chick-fil-A stores across the nation. Lines of hundreds of people snaked through malls and bumper-to-bumper cars circled twice or more around free-standing restaurants to reach their drive-thru windows.
The chain told its managers to expect a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in business, but some restaurants were up 200 percent, and Chick-fil-A reported its best day of business ever.
The point is that when Americans had a chance to express themselves on two important values — traditional marriage and freedom of speech — they leaped at the chance like, well, a chicken on a June bug.
And there’s more: Same-sex marriage advocates must be giving thanks that Maine only has a small percentage of minority residents, particularly African-Americans.
A group called the Coalition of African-American Pastors, led by the Rev. William Owens, held a press conference at the National Press Club last week to decry same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama’s support for it.
“I’m ashamed that the first black president chose this road, a disgraceful road,” Owens said. He said Obama was “taking the black vote for granted” and decried the idea of similarities between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement.
Meanwhile, Rev. Charles Lyons of Chicago responded in church last month to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim that Chick-fil-A didn’t represent “Chicago’s values” by saying, “Do not disrespect us. We, too, are Chicago!”
SSM supporters say these are just a few voices, but recent votes in California and North Carolina where the black vote was overwhelmingly against SSM prove the pastors were speaking for many others.
Black Americans’ traditional view of marriage reflects their traditional view of faith, and that may have an impact on national politics this fall well beyond the votes of a few states on marriage.
For example, when Mitt Romney spoke at the NAACP national convention last month, most media accounts mentioned only the fact he got some boos for pledging to overturn “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act).
In spite of the group’s official backing for same-sex marriage, however, when the GOP presidential hopeful said he supported traditional marriage, he got a standing ovation.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at: [email protected]