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Chick-fil-A flap consumes Chicago
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2012-08-01


Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno has vowed to oppose the opening of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in his ward, after the company's chief operating officer said he was "guilty as charged" of opposing gay rights.

Moreno joined a chorus of critics against the fast-food chain as the fallout over Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy's comments continued for a second week.

Cathy told Christian news publication the Baptist Press that his goal is to operate the fast-food chain "on Biblical principles" and that he opposed same-sex marriage.

The comments have set off a firestorm of bad press against the fast-food chain and irked elected officials throughout the country.

Moreno had been talks with the fast-food chain for nine months, but will deny the company a permit in Logan Square because of Cathy's "bigoted, homophobic comments" and concerns about traffic in the area, he told the Chicago Tribune.

Moreno has Mayor Emanuel's blessing. Emanuel affirmed his support for same-sex marriage to the Chicago Sun-Times and said that Cathy's comments are out of synch with Chicago values.

Read more story below....

"Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values," Emanuel told the Sun-Times. "They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you're gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values." Emanuel later clarified his initial statement, saying he would allow Chick-fil-A to establish business in the city.

Moreno has been a vocal supporter of LGBT issues in his first term as alderman. This spring, he introduced a city ordinance that aims to create a policy within the Chicago Police Department for interacting with transgender detainees.

In a July 26 email to ward residents, Moreno said that Chick-fil-A representatives had previously assured him they didn't support anti-gay causes.

"Last week, the comments from the CEO of the company made it clear that they were lying to my face in every one of those meetings," Moreno said.

"I'm a staunch believer in equality," he continued. "I will not support a business that discriminates against a minority population. I believe the majority of 1st Warders agree with this opinion. I'm tired of self-professed 'liberals,' who have no backbone and are all talk. Denying Chick-fil-A is taking a stand for what is right."

The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), which worked with Moreno on the transgender ordinance, praised Moreno and Emanuel's stance against the chain in a statement.

"Diversity has made this city great, and we have some of the strongest protections for LGBT folks in Illinois," said Anthony Martinez, executive director of TCRA. "The statements made by Dan Cathy show that this restaurant has no place in Chicago. We will continue to work to ensure that Chick-Fil-A is not welcome in this city until they see the value of acceptance and diversity, and they make that clear in their company policies."

Students at the University of Illinois have also launched a petition to evict Chick-fil-A from the Illini Union student center. The university is among seven schools to launch Change.org petitions demanding that the chain be removed from campus.

"We are not arguing against the Christian community, we are only saying that any organization, regardless of its heritage, that actively supports discrimination has no right being housed and supported as a part of a diverse university community," the petition reads.

Equality Illinois has also launched a "Flick-the-hate" petition against Chick-fil-A, that asks Illinois businesses owners, including those leasing space to the chain, to cut ties.

The company has been a sore spot for some Chicago LGBT activists since it opened a restaurant downtown last summer, after contributing millions to anti-gay organizations. But until recently, the company had denied that it was anti-gay.

Still, the fallout over Cathy's comments may be complicated for some Chicagoans, most notably the owner of Chicago's only Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Owner Lauren Silich released a statement that says her business is an independently owned and operated franchise and that her family has deep Chicago roots.

"We hold fundraisers for hospitals, school, fallen police and we donated to a wide variety of causes, including everything from churches to gay and lesbian organizations," Silich said.

Silich did not specify what LGBT groups the restaurant donated to.

Also, in a subsequent development, the Chicago Republican Party plans to file a complaint with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Department of Human Rights over Moreno's action against Chick-fil-A, according to a press release.

The party's release states that "Moreno is attempting to use the hammer of government action to harm a person's business after that person expressed religious views with which Alderman Moreno disagrees. It's hard to imagine a clearer violation of First Amendment rights."

Also, Windy City Times reached out to 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney and 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman (both openly gay) to get their reactions. Tunney had no comment.

Cappleman, however, responded with his feelings and a promotion of an event: "I am disappointed to hear that the CEO of Chick-Fil-A does not believe in equality for all Americans. Many 46th Ward residents and businesses disagree with this kind of hateful stance, which is why Hearty Boys, located at 3819 N. Broadway, is hosting a Chick-Fil-Gay Appreciation Day Aug. 1 starting at 5 p.m.

"Hearty Boys will be serving fried chicken breast sandwiches on toasted buttered buns with pickles and a side of fries for $10. [All] of the proceeds will go to Equality Illinois for marriage equality.

He added, "I am committed to improving economic development and creating jobs in our neighborhood. In the past, if I have not agreed with the legal practices or views of a particular business, I work with that business to become a more open, welcoming neighbor to our community."

The controversy has gone national. For example, mayors across the nation have taken sides on the issue. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and San Francisco counterpart Edwin Lee have shunned the chain, according to ABC News. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, said that he "disagree[s] with them really strongly on this one. You can't have a test for what the owners' personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city."

Some conservatives, including former Gov. Mike Huckabee, plan to celebrate Chick-fil-A Aug. 1 (hence the Hearty Boys event on the same day). Former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tweeted a photo of herself with her husband, Todd, in a Chick-fil-A, holding bags of food and making a thumbs-up gesture, the Chicago Tribune reported.

On a related (and some might say bizarre) note, Chick-fil-A VP of Corporate Relations Don Perry passed away July 27. He had worked with the chain almost 29 years.

[NOTE: Also see Windy City Times coverage, Chick-fil-A officer: The company is anti-gay, at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Chick-fil-A-officer-The-company-is-anti-gay/38777.html.] ;

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