Today, multiple complaints against Chick-fil-A were filed with The Illinois Department of Human Rights by The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) on behalf of unnamed claimants. The complaints, according to a press release, quoted below, and official documents released to The New Civil Rights Movement, “allege that Chick-fil-A’s ‘intolerant corporate culture’ violates Illinois law, specifically Section 5-102(B) of the Human Rights Act, which prohibits a ‘public accommodation’ from making protected classes ‘unwelcome, objectionable or unacceptable’.”
Chick-Fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy has repeatedly made disparaging remarks about same-sex marriage. Chick-Fil-A CEO S. Truett Cathy is quoted in a 2007 Forbes profile stating he would probably fire someone who has been sinning.
In response to calls from ordained Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee, yesterday was deemed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”
The allegations come from a man who is Christian, unmarried, and in a relationship with a male partner. Together they are raising a daughter in a “non-traditional” family unit, documents from The Civil Rights Agenda state.
“I do not believe that it is possible for me to eat at Chick-fil-A without being discriminated against simply because I am an unmarried homosexual in a ‘non-traditional’ family unit,” the claimant states, adding, “as a result of Chick-fil-A’s corporate policies which have been both directly and indirectly published by the company’s executive officers, I am being denied a public accommodation free from discrimination against me.”
The claimant, who quotes Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy’s widely-puiblicized anti-gay comments, adds:
“Although I would like to be treated equally and with dignity and respect at Chick-fil-A restaurants, the company’s widely published corporate philosophy, culture and policies make clear to me that as an unmarried homosexual in a “non-traditional” family unit, I am inferior to married heterosexuals and therefore, unwelcome, objectionable and unacceptable to Chick-fil-A.”
The complaint notes that Chick-Fil-A licensees ”have contractually agreed to follow, comply with and refrain from rejecting the statements of corporate policy and ‘values’ as stated by Chick-fil-A’s COO, Dan Cathy,” and “have contractually agreed to be part of the Chick-fil-A ‘brand’ and ‘values’ as determined and dictated by the Chick-fil-A licensor.”
The complaint further notes that “each of the local owners have entered into contracts with Chick-fil-A which require them to adhere to and refrain from contradicting Chick-fil-A’s “values” and corporate policies and philosophy, including, but not limited to the statements of policy and philosophy…”
“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 The Civil Rights Agenda and the attorney who filed the complaint, a press release, continued below, states. “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.”
“Given the extent of media coverage this issue has received, the current complainants have requested that their name be withheld from the media,” stated Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “The complainants are a same-gender family with a daughter. 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 Civil Rights Agenda began working with Alderman Joe Moreno and Chick-fil-A in February. Aware of Chick-fil-A’s reputation of homophobia and discrimination, Alderman Joe Moreno contacted The Civil Rights Agenda to examine their corporate anti-discrimination policies. TCRA made recommendations in order to bring Chick-fil-A’s corporate policies in-line with the Illinois Human Rights Act. The suggestions included: an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy, diversity and cultural competency training, parity in employee benefits that included benefits for couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships, appropriate and respectful advertising in the LGBT community and transgender inclusive health benefits.
“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.”
Since it is against Illinois law to discriminate against a protected class and the company had a history of discrimination against minorities, Alderman Moreno made clear his conviction of protecting Chicago residents. “It’s my responsibility, as a community representative, to have responsible businesses [in my Ward], and part of that responsibility is to not have [a business with] discriminatory policies” Moreno told Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” yesterday. “I’m not going to back off.”
The dialogue between TCRA and Chick-fil-A stalled once the news of Dan Cathy’s comments broke. “I spoke to a Senior Vice President the week before Dan Cathy’s comments hit the press. Since then, we have not been able to get a hold of anyone at Chick-fil-A,” stated Meister.
The Civil Rights Agenda is quick to point out that this is not a First Amendment Issue. “This has nothing to do with freedom of speech or religious liberty as some might suggest,” insists Martinez. “This is about Chick-fil-A having a policy, a corporate culture, which promotes discrimination. The COO in his personal capacity can say or think whatever he wants, it may be hateful, but it is his right. But when he speaks on behalf of the company, and the company starts implementing policy that reflects that hatred it is against the law in Illinois.”
The Civil Rights Agenda will be working with other national organizations that are looking into the legal ramifications of Chick-fil-A giving millions of dollars to recognized “hate groups,” as well as information that Chick-fil-A has practiced segregation prior to the implementation of The Civil Rights Act.
“I have an old picture on my desk that was taken in the South before the Civil Rights Act,” said Lowell Jaffe, Political and Policy Director for TCRA, “it’s a restaurant with a sign that says ‘Coloreds Served, take out only.’ That picture is there to remind me that separate is not equal; that access isn’t the only component in civil rights.”
The Civil Rights Agenda (which is not affiliated with The New Civil Rights Movement) is Illinois’ largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights advocacy organization, and is working with cooperating attorneys on this filing.
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