Chicago Alderman: I Will Deny Business Permit Because “There Are Consequences for [Its Owner’s] Statements and Beliefs,” and They Should Include Denial

Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno’s doubles down on a First Amendment violation:

Home Depot in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue wants to sell a piece of its land so that a Chick-fil-A restaurant can open in the 1st Ward, where I am alderman. It would be the fast-food chain’s first “stand-alone” Chicago restaurant. But to subdivide the land, the companies need my approval.

Initially, I had some traffic concerns with their plan. But then I heard the bigoted, homophobic comments by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, who recently came out against same-sex marriage.

There are consequences for one’s actions, statements and beliefs. Because of this man’s ignorance, I will deny Chick-fil-A a permit to open a restaurant in my ward.

I’ve been in discussions with the company for the past nine months. Every time we met, I brought up my concerns that the company supported a homophobic agenda. My concerns were based on financial contributions made by WinShape Foundation, Chick-fil-A’s charitable endeavor, to anti-gay groups. I was repeatedly told by company officials that “we (Chick-fil-A) are not political” and that the company “had no political agenda.” Just recently, an attorney for the chain tried to convince me of Chick-fil-A’s benevolence. During each meeting, I challenged the company to change its ways. Although I thought we had made some progress, Cathy’s anti-gay comments made it abundantly clear what the company’s true stance is toward equal rights.

In an interview with the Biblical Recorder, he was asked about the company’s fervent support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” he said. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Obviously, Cathy has the right to believe, say and give money to whatever cause he wants. But my belief in equality is resolute, and if I were to take the easy way out and turn a blind eye to his remarks, I would be turning my back on the principles I stand for.

Chick-fil-A did put out a damage-control response, which was basically worthless lip service. If company officials read this commentary, they most likely will come back with the trite corporate accusation, which is rolled out every time a business has a problem with government: “Ald. Moreno doesn’t care about jobs.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I am proud of my track record on promoting and assisting businesses to open and grow in the 1st Ward. I would argue that a company with such overtly bigoted beliefs is bad for business and jobs in the 1st Ward, not the reverse.

I represent a diverse, forward-thinking community, and I’m sure the majority of 1st Warders find Cathy’s comments and attitude repugnant. Even if I did give Chick-fil-A the go-ahead, I suspect many in my community wouldn’t spend their dollars there.

I know my decision may anger or annoy some people. It’s just a chicken place, they will say. But I believe Chick-fil-A should really reconsider its platform on gay issues. Equality for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people is the civil rights issue of our generation. This decision is me taking a stand.

This is just appalling. A government official thinks that the proper “consequence” for a business owner’s “statements and beliefs” is the denial of the ability to do business. Because he’s “sure the majority of” his constituents find the owner’s “comments and attitudes repugnant,” it’s just fine for him to use the coercive power of the government to block the business from opening up a store. His “belief in equality is resolute,” and that apparently justifies him discriminating against businesspeople for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak out. They “should really reconsider [their] platform on gay issues,” or else the government of Chicago will exclude them from the alderman’s ward.

As I noted before, such a viewpoint-based denial of a business permit is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. But that doesn’t seem to bother Alderman Moreno, because his “principles” seem to demand this sort of unconstitutional behavior. As I said, just appalling.

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