Alderman accuses Chick-fil-A of ‘lying,’ renews threat to block store
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org October 19, 2012 2:28PM
Updated: October 19, 2012 3:19PM
So much for the détente in the highly charged political controversy that threatened to block Chick-fil-A from expanding in Chicago because of company president Dan Cathy’s public opposition to gay marriage.
Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) on Friday renewed his threat to block Chick-fil-A from opening its first free-standing store in Logan Square after accusing company officials of “lying” to him.
Last month, Moreno declared his intention to support Chick-fil-A’s Chicago expansion after extracting a pair of promises from the company: to issue a statement of non-discrimination to its employees and franchise holders and to make no more contributions to groups that opposed gay marriage through its non-profit.
According to Moreno, the statement was to be called, “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are” and declare the company’s commitment to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender” while avoiding “political or social debates” in the future.
On Friday, Moreno complained that, two days after he declared his support for the 1st Ward store, Cathy appeared on the cable TV talk show hosted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s and claimed that the “promises” made to Moreno were nothing new and that Chick-fil-A had not changed its policies.
That prompted an angry Moreno to renew his threat to keep Chick-fil-A out of his ward.
“I’m not meeting with them any more. We’re done. He’s already come out publicly and said the company has not changed their ways. The executive vice president told me they had. So, one of ‘em’s lying and I’m not gonna figure out who it is,” Moreno said.
“He’s countered what his executives have told me and have given to me — both the letter and the Chick-fil-A statement. He’s gone against that. Now, it’s not even a question of this [gay marriage] issue. I was lied to. Either their executive vice president lied to me or Dan Cathy is lying. I don’t know who it is. But, someone is not telling the truth and I have no patience for that.”
As for Cathy, Moreno said, “He needs to stop dancing around the issue. He needs to publicly come out and say, `Our company does not discriminate against those of any sexual orientation, both on its hiring and its serving.’ If he comes out and says that, we’re at a different day. But, he hasn’t said that.”
Chick-fil-A spokesman Jerry Johnston could not be reached for comment on the alderman’s renewed threat.
Moreno said he’s not at all concerned about a lengthy legal battle that could cost the city dearly.
“If they want to go that route, they have the right to go that route. But, I’m not gonna base my policy decisions and equal rights for people based on the fact that this company might sue,” he said.
“Zoning is not a right. It’s a privilege. They want a change in the zoning code to allow them to come in. ... What they’ve shown is that they’re irresponsible. If they do want to go to court, the city is gonna have a strong case that they’re an irresponsible business owner.”
Earlier this year, Cathy touched off a political firestorm when he was quoted as saying he was “guilty as charged” for supporting what he called the “biblical definition” of marriage as between a man and a woman.
His comments infuriated gay rights activists across the nation, prompting their political allies to take a stand against the company.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel hinted strongly that he was prepared to join Moreno in blocking Chick-fil-A’s planned Chicago expansion.
“Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. 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,” the mayor said then.
Conservatives promptly accused Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff now serving as a chief fundraiser for President Barack Obama, of using a political litmus test to determine public policy.
That prompted the mayor to soften his early stance and say, “If they meet all the usual requirements, then they can open their restaurant.”
The mayor’s office had no immediate comment on Moreno’s renewed threat.