Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



In July 2012, Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy remarked to a religious publication that he and his company supported the "biblical definition of the family unit."' Chick- fil-A is popularly known as a Christian company that promotes conservative, biblical values. Mr. Cathy's statement was largely interpreted by the media as an "anti-gay" sentiment rooted in religious beliefs. In response to Mr. Cathy's remark, government officials from Boston and Chicago refused to allow the restaurant chain to open new locations in their cities, citing the organization's official policy of "discrimination." The Chick-fil-A controversy demonstrates how the intersection of law, religion, and sexual orientation has come to the forefront of the public consciousness. Indeed, sexual orientation discrimination is the civil rights battleground of the modern era. Public attitudes on gay rights are evolving, and the legal landscape governing sexual orientation discrimination is only just beginning to develop. No federal law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination, despite the repeated introduction of bills over the last twenty-five years. States are roughly split on the appropriate response to sexual orientation discrimination; twenty-one states and the District of Columbia prohibit all employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation, while nineteen states provide no protection against it. Nearly two hundred municipalities and local governments, like Boston and Chicago, have chosen to make sexual orientation discrimination illegal within their jurisdictions. In short, legislatures, courts, organizations, and individuals around the nation are working to reconcile the important values implicated by sexual orientation discrimination.