Chicago Alerman Proco “Joe” Moreno made headlines a few months ago when he vowed to block the anti-gay fast food chain, Chick-fil-A from building its second Chicago store. People screamed about the corporation’s right to free speech, etc and attacked Moreno and other lawmakers who were vowing similar challenges. And while legally, no lawmaker can just decide someone can’t do business because of their beliefs – there are other ways of legislatively challenging new businesses from opening. These include discriminatory employment practices among other things. Point being, nothing ever happened and no one stopped any Chick-fil-A’s from selling their horrifically unhealthy chicken sandwiches.
One thing that needs to be made clear here – the reason gay people were up in arms about Chick-fil-A had very little to do with CEO Dan Cathy’s remarks regarding his anti-equality view on marriage. The tremors were caused by Chick-fil-A contributing more than $5 million to virulently anti-gay groups over the past several years. Some of those groups have even been linked to Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill which would mean life in prison and in some cases, execution for being gay. It even went so far as to punish those who didn’t report friends and family for being gay.
Flash forward, dozens of anti-gay groups have now hosted anti-gay “Chick-fil-A Days” and other homophobic actions supporting the chain. One anti-gay group has even gone so far as to declare every Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Day.”
Now it appears through several talks, Alderman Moreno has made some headway with the higher-ups and is declaring victory. It seems Chick-fil-A has agreed to stop funding these anti-gay groups and has sent around an internal memo to all franchisees and stakeholders that says the company must “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.”
This is quite clearly a win for us and proves that being anti-gay is bad for business. While we will have to wait to see their tax returns which disclose the groups they contribute to, and while Dan Cathy made a similar claim in January of 2011 that Chick-fil-A and their charitable arm, Winshape will “not champion any political agendas on marriage and family,” I think this is most definitely a win.
Upon revisitation, there are still quite a few things left up in the air that I want to caution about before we run back for our waffle fries:
- This agreement was made between a Chicago politician and Chick-fil-A’s Director of Real Estate. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of clout a Director of Real Estate might have with regards to Chick-fil-A’s employment or giving practices.
- The policy that’s being touted as a success is their philosophy that they don’t give to groups with political agendas is one that has been in place since the company was founded – what’s making them stick to that philosophy now and who at Chick-fil-A does the deciding on what is or is not a group with a political agenda.
- Finally, No one at Chick-fil-A has corroborated or denied the reports in this press release. Until that happens, stick to KFC.
The full statement from The Civil Rights Agenda:
Chick-fil-A Ceases Anti-gay Donations, Clarifies Stance on
Gay Customers & Employees
September 18, 2012 – Chicago, Illinois – The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), Illinois’ leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights advocacy organization, has learned that Alderman Moreno has finalized his negotiations with Chick-Fil-A. Alderman Moreno has confirmed that Chick-fil-A will no longer give money to anti-gay organizations and that they have clarified in an internal document that the company will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation. The Civil Rights Agenda worked closely with the Alderman in an advisory role as he negotiated these concessions with the executives at Chick-fil-A. Additionally, members of TCRA spoke directly with executives at Chick-fil-A during negotiations to aid in educating their decision makers about anti-discrimination policies and issues affecting the LGBT community.
In a letter addressed to Alderman Moreno and signed by Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, it states, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.” Winshape, a non-profit funded by Chick-fil-a, has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups, including some classified as hate groups, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage. In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations.
“We are very pleased with this outcome and thank Alderman Moreno for his work on this issue,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “I think the most substantive part of this outcome is that Chick-fil-A has ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights. It has taken months of discussion, both with our organization and with the Alderman, for Chick-fil-A to come forward with these concessions and we feel this is a strong step forward for Chick-fil-A and the LGBT community, although it is only a step.”
Additionally, they have sent an internal memo to franchisees and stakeholders that states that as a company, they will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender” and that their “intent is not to engage in political or social debates.” This statement was placed into an official company document called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.”
“Although we are encouraged by their internal statement, we would still like for the company to adopt an anti-discrimination policy at the corporate level,” said Rick Garcia, policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda. “It is one thing for a company to say they respect everyone they serve and employ, it is quite another for them to put that into their policies and demand that all employees adhere to that behavior. As we have heard from gay employees that work for Chick-fil-A, there is a culture of discrimination within the company and we would like to ensure that employees can speak out and call attention to those practices without fear of reprisal. It takes time to change the culture of any institution and steps like a corporate policy ensure that progress is made.”