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Pols have no right to say which biz should operate in city

TimesLedger Newspapers

Same-sex marriage was legalized by the state Legislature a year ago and, although controversial to many, it is now law. City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) have been leading advocates in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender movement.

There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but when these two leaders use their positions to push that agenda by seeking the ouster of a legitimate business simply because its owner does not share their views, their actions are wrong and reprehensible.

Case in point is a letter to the editor from Dromm that recently appeared in local and citywide papers, in which he attempts to pressure New York University to divest itself of its Chick-fil-A restaurant franchise tenant. Quinn did the same with an official letter on Council stationery to the president of NYU. With youth unemployment exceeding 20 percent, why are these politicians using their official positions to harm small businesses and killing badly needed jobs?

What started the political furor was Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy saying, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

This is a point of view within the mainstream of public opinion in the United States. Dromm and Quinn’s reasoning seems to be that because Cathy espouses marriage as defined by traditional religious teachings — between a man and a woman — that he should not be permitted to operate his business in New York City.

Ironically, his position is the same one President Barack Obama shared up until May, when in an ABC interview Obama said he had evolved his position. In fact, when running for the U.S. Senate, he publicly stated his Christian belief was that marriage was between a man and a woman.

I do not recall Dromm or Quinn publicly excoriating Obama over the years for having shared similar beliefs to that of Cathy, and that same view is held by many religious denominations. Will Dromm and Quinn next urge the city to divest itself of business contracts it has with the Catholic Church or call for revocation of property tax exemptions provided to these religious institutions?

Politicians like Dromm and Quinn often preach tolerance, but their actions exemplify an unwavering intolerance for those with opposing views. It is regrettable that they have chosen the road of coercion rather than persuasion and resort to intimidation rather than elucidation. Elected officials have a responsibility to their constituents to foster open discussion and debate so individuals or even Chick-fil-A patrons can decide for themselves whether they wish to continue eating at that restaurant.

New York has always been a melting pot of diversity, expression and opinion. It would be a sad day if we began to exclude companies from doing business here based on the personal or religious beliefs of the companies’ owners. We slide down a slippery slope when politicians become our thought police and require a litmus test before allowing small businesses to operate.

Intolerance by LGBT advocates is just as wrongheaded as intolerance by others. Teaching by example is a powerful force and, unfortunately, some of our local politicians have lost their moral footing by denying the same tolerance they have championed over the years for others.

Bob Friedrich is a civic leader and president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op.

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