The Civil Rights Agenda files complaints against Chick-fil-A

Protesters at Chicago Chick-fil-A Aug. 1, 2012. Photo: Tony Merevick.

The Civil Rights Agenda, a local LGBT rights advocacy group, filed multiple complaints with the Illinois Department of Human Rights Thursday, alleging that the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A restaurant chain’s “intolerant corporate culture” violates Illinois law and a provision in the state’s Human Rights Act.

“In our current high speed media and social media environment, Chick-fil-A has announced and caused to be published, to hundreds of millions of people, that LGBT people are unacceptable and objectionable,” said Jacob Meister, Governing Board President of TCRA and the attorney who filed the complaint. “They have made it clear the lives of LGBT individuals are unacceptable to them and that same-gender families are unwelcome at Chick-fil-A.”

Anthony Martinez, executive director of TCRA, contends that Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s recent comments reiterating his opposition to same-sex marriage were more than just his own thoughts and that he was speaking on behalf of his company, stating the views as company policy.

[box bg="#e8e8e8" color="#000"]Highlights

  • Chain blocked from opening restaurant in 1st Ward
  • Complaint filed against Chick-fil-A for violating Illinois Human Rights Ordinance
  • Complaintants’ names have been kept private, same-gender couple with daughter

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“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 comments make LGBT people, a protected minority class, feel “unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable” at Chick-fil-A restaurants, or “public accommodations” under Section 5-102(B) of the Illinois Human Rights Act, Martinez said.

TCRA’s complaint comes on the heels of the Chicago Republican Party’s filing its own complaint Wednesday, asking Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to probe North Side Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno’s vow to block the chain from opening a new restaurant in his ward. There was also a small demonstration by LGBT activists outside the downtown Chick-fil-A location Wednesday afternoon.

TCRA began working with Moreno in February, when he asked Martinez and Meister to examine the company’s discriminatory policies. In discussions with Chick-fil-A, TCRA recommended changes to the company’s policy so that it’s in line with the Human Rights Act, but as time went on, those talks fizzled until they completely stalled after Cathy’s comments, according to TCRA.

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“When we began working with Chick-fil-A I thought this would be a quiet matter; working with them to adopt anti-discrimination policy and diversity training,” said Meister, “I had no idea the depth and conviction of their bigotry.”

Individuals named in the complaint have been kept confidential, considering the continued media coverage of the Chick-fil-A fallout.

“The complainants are a same-gender family with a daughter,” said Martinez. “Chick-fil-A used to be one of their favorite places to eat until Mr. Cathy’s latest statements were reported so widely. Now, they feel completely unwelcome in the establishment.”

The complaint lists several claims of public accommodation discrimination.

“As a result of the foregoing published statements regarding Chick-fil-A’s corporate philosophy, culture and policies, as an unmarried homosexual in a “non-traditional” family unit, I know that my family and I are looked down upon, loathed, unwelcome, objectionable and unacceptable to Chick-fil-A,” stated the complainant in the filing.

TCRA will continue looking into the legal ramifications of Chick-fil-A’s policies and donations to anti-gay groups.

Another protest outside of the downtown Chick-fil-A location (30 E. Chicago Ave.) is planned for Wednesday, Aug. 8 at 4:30 p.m. by Andy Thayer, founder of the Gay Liberation Network.

Chick-fil-A could not immediately be reached for comment.