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Chicago Gay Rights Group Files Complaints Against Chick-Fil-A

UPDATED 08/03/12 1:53 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago-based gay rights advocacy group has filed multiple complaints against Chick-Fil-A with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, in the latest twist in the culture clash surrounding the fast food chain.

Meanwhile, gay rights supporters in Chicago and around the country will be flocking to Chick-Fil-A locations Friday for a much-publicized "kiss in" protest.

The complaints were filed Thursday by The Civil Rights Agenda. It accused Chick-Fil-A of having an "intolerant corporate culture" that violates Illinois state law and a provision in the Illinois Human Rights Act, according to a Chicago Phoenix report.


The complaints argue that highly-publicized comments by Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy are evidence of a "nationwide corporate policy conveying to non-Christians, homosexuals and unmarried individuals who are in 'non-traditional' family units that they are unwelcome, objectionable and unacceptable at restaurants operated and licensed by Chick-Fil-A."

The complainants, whose names were redacted in the copy of the complaint published by the Phoenix, claimed that "repeated published statements of corporate philosophy, policies and culture" make it clear that the company considers him "inferior to heterosexuals."

The complaints went on to quote several comments in recent interviews Cathy granted to the Christian news Web site the Baptist Press, and the radio program "The Ken Coleman Show."

The Baptist Press article notes Chick-Fil-A's "support for the traditional family," and goes on to quote Cathy as saying, "Guilty as charged."

Cathy is quoted further in the July 16 Baptist Press article: "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."

The complaint also quoted a remark by Cathy in the article that "all throughout the New Testament there is an evangelism strategy related to our performance in the workplace. Our work should be an act of worship. Our work should be our mission field."

In the earlier radio interview, Cathy added: "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say 'we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."

Supporters of Chick-Fil-A have argued that the comments only reflect Cathy's personal views and do not have anything to do with company policy. But the complainants, identified by The Civil Rights Agenda in the Chicago Phoenix report as a same-gender family with a daughter, argued that the views were stated as company policy.

Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, told the Phoenix that the Chick-Fil-A used to be one of the family's "favorite places to eat" until Cathy's statements made them feel "completely unwelcome."

Attorney and Civil Rights Agenda governing board president Jacob Meister told the Phoenix that Chick-Fil-A has "made it clear the lives of LGBT individuals are unacceptable to them and that same-gender families are unwelcome at Chick-Fil-A."

The complaints did not include any specific incidents of discrimination or harassment at Chick-Fil-A restaurants, but claims Cathy's comments are enough to make LGBT people, who are a protected minority class in Illinois, feel unwelcome, the Phoenix reported.

On Friday, Equality Illinois and several other gay rights advocacy groups in the country that is urging gay and lesbian couples to go to their local Chick-Fil-A restaurants for the "kiss-in" campaign.

At the "kiss-in," Equality Illinois says, "LGBT supporters will show their disdain for Chick-Fil-A's policies with public displays of affection in front of their restaurants."

Some gay rights supporters turned out Friday morning at the Chick-Fil-A in Naperville. Two women who happen to be straight hugged, kissed, embraced and took pictures with their cell phone.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Dave Berner reports


"Jenny and I both work at a high school, and we both have a long history of working with gay and lesbian youth. We're both heterosexual. Both of us, I think, are equally appalled that anyone would take a stand to say you can't have equal rights," one of the woman said.

The woman said when she was in Bible college, she remembers a university that partnered with hers was against whites dating blacks. She says time and tolerance teaches us a lot.

Chick-Fil-A has drawn a flurry of controversy ever since an article profiling the company ran late last month on the Christian news site Baptist Press.

The article notes that some have opposed Chick-Fil-A's "support for the traditional family," and goes on to quote Cathy as saying, "Guilty as charged."

Following Cathy's comments, Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st) said he would not grant a zoning permit for Chick-Fil-A to open a second Chicago city location in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue. While Cathy's comments have been presented as being only his personal views, Moreno also said last week that he is unconvinced that Chick-Fil-A will not discriminate against the LGBT community.

"If they are violating Chicago and Illinois law by discriminating against a section of our population, I think that has grounds for an irresponsible business, and that the community would not want that in there," Moreno said.

The Civil Rights Agenda complaints claimed that beginning back in February, Chick-Fil-A had "adamantly denied repeated requests" from Moreno and the group to "adopt and publish a broad non­discrimination policy which includes a prohibition on discrimination against anyone because of marital status, gender identity or sexual orientation in all aspects of employment and public accommodations."

On Wednesday, supporters of Chick-Fil-A turned out in droves for a "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" sponsored by former Arkansas governor and onetime Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Crowds were so large in Orland Park that cars were being diverted to another parking lot, and Chick-Fil-A kept serving those who were waiting in line even after its 10 p.m. closing time.

Atlanta-based Chick-Fil-A said it set new sales records Wednesday, but will not release specific numbers.

Also Wednesday, several members of the Chicago Republican Party filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, accusing Moreno and Mayor Rahm Emanuel of breaking civil rights laws pertaining to religious freedom and the First Amendment when Moreno said Chick-Fil-A would be denied a permit.

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