After months of negotiations with Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno over its anti-gay positions and donations, Chick-fil-A has agreed to cease donations from its non-profit charity to anti-gay organizations and issued a company-wide internal mandate calling for the equal treatment of all employees and customers, the alderman said.
WinShape, a non-profit funded by the College Park, Ga.-based chicken chain, has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations — some classified hate groups — including Focus on the Family, according to The Civil Rights Agenda, which worked with Moreno and company executives in an advisory capacity as they negotiated to adopt new policies.
“At Chick-fil-A, we have a genuine commitment to hospitality for all of our guests. We have no agenda, policy or position against anyone,” said Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing in statement to Chicago Phoenix. “The genuine, historical intent of our WinShape Foundation and corporate giving has been to support youth, family and educational programs. We value everyone and strive to treat all people with a caring spirit.”
Chick-fil-A serves and values everyone regardless of their beliefs or opinions, Robinson said. The company made similar statements on its Facebook page in mid-July — before the controversy erupted over comments made by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, in which he reiterated the company’s support for marriage between a man and woman and his opposition to same-sex marriage.
“This is a win for the LGBT community,” Moreno said in a statement provided by TCRA. “This is a win for everyone who works for the cause of equal rights, and a win for Chick- fil-A. This is a win for all.”
The shift could ease intense opposition from the local LGBT community and the alderman that left many pitted against the restaurant chain’s plans to open a new location in the city.
“We are very pleased with this outcome and thank Ald. Moreno for his work on this issue,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of TCRA. “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.”
The company reportedly outlined its shift in policy and practice in a letter addressed to Moreno, who in July declared that he would block the popular fast food chain from opening a new location in his ward unless they adopted gay-friendly policies. The letter, signed by Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate reads, “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,” according to Martinez.
Now, Moreno is set to end the ban by providing a letter of support and introducing an ordinance that would effectively enable the chain to open a standalone location in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue in Logan Square on a parcel of land shared with a Home Depot store, according to TCRA.
Negotiations took 10 months to generate progress, and Martinez previously told Chicago Phoenix that Moreno has been in talks with the company since late last year. Moreno made national headlines when he announced he would ban the restaurant, initially garnering Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s support, and triggering the Chicago GOP to file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General seeking a probe into the ban. Emanuel backtracked on his support shortly afterward. Days later, TCRA filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, alleging that Cook County Chick-fil-A locations discriminated against LGBT families.
“We feel this is a strong step forward for Chick-fil-A and the LGBT community; although it is only a step,” Martinez said, but noted that he’s not about to patronize the restaurant.
“I’m not going to be eating at Chick-fil-A any time soon,” he said. “I think people should make that decision for themselves.”
In an internal memo titled “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are” issued to franchisees and stakeholders, the company said that as a whole it would, “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender,” and that its “intent is not to engage in political or social debates,” according to Moreno.
“Chick-fil-A has provided a way to ensure that their employees know that discrimination will not be tolerated,” Moreno said. “It sends an important message and is a very positive step for Chick-fil-A as it looks to expand into urban markets. It is also a positive step forward for the LGBT community.”
However, TCRA and longtime Chicago LGBT rights activist Rick Garcia said they would like the company to take additional steps and adopt an anti-discrimination policy at the corporate level. On top of that, questions remain about the company’s giving policy outside of the non-profit organization.
“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,” Garcia said. “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.”
This, Martinez said, is why he’s not about to support the company as a customer.
“Until [Chick-fil-A] has an anti-discrimination policy in place, there is still the chance that LGBT employees can be singled out,” he said. “I’m not planning on dining there until that policy is in place.”
Garcia and Martinez said they would continue talks with the company.
“It takes time to change the culture of any institution and steps like a corporate policy ensure that progress is made,” Garcia said.