ACLU To Chicago: Just Because You Don’t Agree With Chick Fil-A Doesn’t Mean You Can Discriminate Against It

Emotions are running high in the ongoing story of Chick fil-A vs. the world, but just because say, Boston or Chicago don’t agree with the company CEO Dan Cathy’s anti-gay marriage stance doesn’t mean those cities can actively bar the chain from opening stores there. That would be discrimination, says the American Civil Liberties Union, in response to the recent comments of a Chicago alderman who vowed to block a second location, as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel decrying Cathy’s statements.

Earlier this week, Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter to Chick fil-A telling Cathy his company wasn’t welcome in Beantown. Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno then joined the fight, and announced that he wants to block Chick fil-A from setting up its second shop in Chicago and Emanuel chimed in as well, saying it would be a “bad investment” for the company to do so.

But refusing to let a business open based on something someone said is discrimination, and won’t fly with the Constitution, says the ACLU.

According to

“The government can regulate discrimination in employment or against customers, but what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words,” said Adam Schwartz, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “When an alderman refuses to allow a business to open because its owner has expressed a viewpoint the government disagrees with, the government is practicing viewpoint discrimination. What the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words.”

The ACLU adds that it “strongly supports” same-sex marriage, but that’s not the point here, says Schwartz. The point is if you start down the slippery slope of blocking someone based on being against something, a city or government could also shut out a business for being in support of something.

Emanuel’s spokeswoman responded in a statement by saying that Cathy just doesn’t share Chicago’s values, so Chick fil-A can go ahead with its bid for a new location in the Logan Square neighborhood just like any other business would.

“He did not say that he would block or play any role in the company opening a new restaurant here,” she said. “If they meet all the usual requirements, then they can open their restaurant, but their values aren’t reflective of our city.”

Meanwhile, the owner of the city’s one and only Chick fil-A is a bit upset at Emanuel’s comments and has issued a press release inviting the mayor to meet with her, her husband and her management staff at her restaurant, to see that her business isn’t about discriminating against same-sex couples.

According to the Chicago Tribune, she wrote that while she gets what Emanuel is saying, she is dedicated to “serving all of our guests with honor, dignity and respect. … We alone created 97 jobs this past year and our passion is building leaders for future generations, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs.”

Legal eagles cry fowl over politicians’ plans to block Chick-fil-A []
Chicago Chick-fil-A owner wants to talk with Emanuel [Chicago Tribune]