A Chicago alderman is set to block Chick-fil-A’s plans to build a new restaurant in his LGBT-friendly and trendy Northwest Side ward, following recent comments by the chain’s president confirming his opposition against same-sex marriage and months of negotiations with the company over their stance on LGBT rights.
Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st Ward) said he will stop the company from opening its second Chicago location in Logan Square next to the Home Depot in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue after months of unsuccessful talks with executives at the company regarding their policies and Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s confirmation last week that he was “guilty as charged” for opposing anything other than the marriage between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.
“We decided not to give our support to a company that has views that we personally find repugnant and what we think the majority of our constituents also find repugnant,” said 1st Ward Director of Legislative Affairs & Communications Matthew Bailey, on behalf of the alderman. “We feel like we have to take a stand and it would go against our principles if we didn’t take this position.”
Moreno will exercise his aldermanic privilege, which asks the City Council to defer decisions on local issues to the ward alderman, and deny Chick-fil-A zoning and permit approval, according to Bailey.
Moreno has been in talks with the company for nearly nine months and LGBT rights advocates at The Civil Rights Agenda started talks with Chick-fil-A in February, when Moreno came to Executive Director Anthony Martinez with the company’s plan to open the store. Those talks have since fizzled, according to both Bailey and Martinez.
“Moreno sat down with us and we started talking about the issues around Chick-fil-A,” Martinez said. “He had already known that they were discriminatory against LGBT folks. Moreno had requested that they show him that they’re not … And of course they said that they’re not discriminatory. He pointed out their donations and things of that nature and he really pressed him to show him that they were not discriminatory against LGBT folks. He wanted some sort of documentation in regards to their inclusion of LGBT people.”
Every time Moreno met with them, the company said they’re not political and did not want to discriminate against anyone, Bailey said.
In January, Chick-fil-A lawyers and developers wrote a letter to Moreno and TCRA explaining what was happening with their company and plans for opening the new store, but this was not sufficient for them, Martinez said. Moreno and TCRA worked together and crafted a letter in response, demanding the company change its corporate policies to include an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy.
Specifically, TCRA demanded diversity and cultural competency training, equal employee benefits that included benefits for couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships, culturally-sensitive advertising in the LGBT community, transgender-inclusive health benefits and rejection of any activities that would undermine equality for LGBT people.
“We’ve been working with them quietly behind the scenes with them for months to help them put in place adequate anti-discrimination policies and support equality,” said TCRA President Jacob Meister. “They have stonewalled all of our efforts for months and months.”
Chick-fil-A representatives told Moreno and TCRA that they no longer wish to make public and political statements about gay rights and that making donations to anti-gay groups were a thing of their past. This was months before Cathy’s recent comments.
“We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” Cathy said in the Baptist Press July 16. He said he was “guilty as charged” for supporting “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
His remarks have led the company to lose its partnership with the The Jim Henson Company and be banned in Boston by Mayor Thomas Menino.
Since word of Moreno’s announcement, the alderman has been met with some opposition throughout the region, including the Illinois Family Institute’s David Smith, who told the Chicago Tribune that he’s “disgusted” by Moreno’s actions.
Others claim the decision may infringe on the company’s 1st Amendment rights and may prevent the creation of new jobs in the ward.
Bailey, however, was quick to address those concerns.
“They obviously have their first amendment right to say what they want, do what they want, and give money to whom they want,” he said. “It wouldn’t be very good business for the neighborhood because we have a very diverse constituency and we don’t think they would support them with their dollars.”
“We’d love to have jobs in our ward but when something is so morally wrong, we have to make a stand,” he said.
A New York City LGBT rights supporter is calling for a national kiss-in event at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the county on Aug. 3 at at 8 p.m. EDT.
Attempts to reach Chick-fil-A for comment were unsuccessful.