LeMunyon Participates in Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day
Delegate says he patronized the fast food restaurant Wednesday in support of free speech
Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67th District) joined the thousands of Northern Virginia residents who supported Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on Wednesday, saying his decision to patron a Chantilly location of the fast food restaurant was in support of the First Amendment.
"I see it, and people I talked to over there, see it as a First Amendment issue. People have a right to say things in public, particularly expressing their religious beliefs and people ought to tolerate that whether they agree with it or not," LeMunyon said. "When you have big city mayors ... saying you can't put a store here because we don't like what you say in public, I think that would fit anybody's definition of intolerance."
Chick-fil-A has recently received pushback from gay rights advocates for Chief Executive Officer Dan Cathy's statements on a Christian radio show against gay marriage when he said, "I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."
The statement put a spotlight on the company's millions of dollars worth of donations to groups that actively advocate against gay rights issues and caused many gay rights supporters to declare a boycott against the chain.
It also elicited statements from mayors of major U.S. cities — like Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. — that declared Chick-fil-A's business unwelcome in those towns.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also made a run for the presidency in 2008, declared Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" after becoming "incensed at the vitriolic assaults" against the company because of the statements.
"Given my long standing strong support for LGBT rights and marriage equality, I would not support #hatechicken," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) tweeted July 27.
In an interview with the Washington Post, a spokesman for Gray clarified the administration would not block Chick-fil-A from opening a new D.C. location if it has a legally obtained permit.
"We will not support and don't want them here, but if they are legally entitled to a permit, they are legally entitled to a permit," spokesman Pedro Ribeiro told the Post.
LeMunyon, whose 67th District includes parts of Oakton, Centreville and Chantilly, posted a photo to his Facebook page Wednesday night that showed him holding a Chick-fil-A bag, then wrote "Let's not be chicken to support First Amendment rights!"
LeMunyon, who defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, said he voted in support of the 2006 amendment to the Virginia Constitution that bans same-sex marriage. He also introduced a bill to the General Assembly earlier this year that would have made it illegal to terminate a state employee for anything other than their performance, a measure that would have outlawed workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"I don't think the issue of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, in my view, has anything to do with gay marriage. It has everything to do with the ability of Americans to speak in public whatever their view might be and have people respect it," he said. "People are really sick and tired of the incivility in public discussion."
LeMunyon said he is unfamiliar with the details on the money Chick-fil-A gives away in support of organizations against gay rights, but said he respects those who choose not to patronize the chain if they disagree with the way the company spends its money.
"We have competition in America. We have a free market, and people have choices," he said. "I don't think there's any place for bashing people because they take a particular religious viewpoint and express that publicly. I just think that's a disgrace, whether I believe that religious viewpoint or not."