Chick-fil-A’s not releasing numbers, but it looks like the chain made a ton of money last Wednesday during the anti-gay marriage “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”
I hope the restaurant uses the extra cash wisely, because it might not last long. If you ask me, the smarter investment is on the other side of the debate.
In case you’ve been without TV, Internet, newspaper, eyes and ears for the last couple of weeks, Chick-fil-A has been the subject of controversy ever since its president and COO Dan Cathy, a devout Christian, gave several interviews in which he denounced gay marriage. It was also subsequently revealed that Cathy and his father funnel much of Chick-fil-A’s profits into their WinShape Foundation, which funds anti-gay causes through its support of groups like Exodus International and Focus on the Family.
The news led a few city leaders to tell Chick-fil-A it could take a hike. Free speech and free market advocates bristled. And then Mike Huckabee organized the appreciation day, which drew everyone from spotlight-seeking politicians (Sarah Palin, naturally) to clueless people who thought it was just a celebration of fried chicken. Two days later, supporters of gay marriage held a same-sex “kiss in” at the restaurant.
If there’s really no such thing as bad publicity, Chick-fil-A is likely seeing a nice bump in business from all the attention. And that’s fine with me, I guess. I have no beef (or chicken — har, har, har!) with Cathy’s right to express his views and do whatever he wants with his private company’s profits, even though I don’t agree with him in the slightest.
What I do have a problem with, though, is the irrationality that seems to be driving Cathy and his supporters. Biblical support for their position is murky, at best. (Their views certainly seem to clash with the book’s larger messages of tolerance and loving one another.) And popular support is heading the other direction.
But maybe more importantly — especially considering anti-gay marriage proponents tend to be Republican, the party that likes to associate itself with business friendliness — the argument against same-sex marriage makes no economic sense.
Think about it. It’s estimated that America’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) population numbers anywhere from around 4% to 10% of the population. (Exact figures are hard to come by due to lack of polling data and the fact that many LGBT individuals aren’t open about their status.) By comparison, black people make up 13% of the American population, about 5% of our population identifies as Asian, and about 13% of Americans are over the age of 65. So, we’re currently barring a fairly large market from making all kinds of couples-related purchases.
If gay marriage were legalized, a Forbes analysis estimates the wedding industry alone would see a $17 billion boost. According to research conducted by TheKnot.com, the average U.S. couple spends $27,021 on its wedding. In New York, the most expensive city in the United States to get married, the average tab runs a whopping $65,824. (And that doesn’t include the price of the honeymoon trip.)
Insurance products would almost surely get a lift, too. According to the National LGBT Cancer project, gay people are twice as likely to go without health insurance as straight people, and one of the reasons is because, in most cases, they can’t access benefits through a partner’s insurance. As a result, gay people are more likely to delay or avoid medical care and often end up in the emergency room. Opening up spousal benefits to same-sex partners would increase premium revenue for insurance companies while reducing our uninsured population, cutting down on the unpaid medical costs passed on to the insured.
Additionally, as many agents already know, life insurance purchases are usually driven by life events, like a marriage. And same-sex couples considering estate planning needs would have more options if they had access to couples-oriented solutions, like spousal limited access trusts.
I’m not even touching on the economic benefits associated with joint ownership of property and joint credit. Basically, I can’t think of many industries — except the anti-gay marriage biz — that wouldn’t benefit, directly or indirectly, from the legalization of gay marriage.
I wish that people would accept same-sex marriage simply because it’s right and just to allow decent human beings, who are no different than me and you, to express their love for one another. But if some can’t be reached through their hearts, I’m betting they can be through their pocketbooks. So, while Chick-fil-A’s intolerant values may have won a battle last week, I doubt they’ll win the war.
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