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Mayor Supports Alderman's Plan To Block Chick-Fil-A Over Anti-Gay Views

UPDATED 07/25/12 - 8:33 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he supports a Chicago alderman's efforts to block Chick-Fil-A from opening a Chicago restaurant, over the anti-gay views of the company's president.

Before a Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday, Aldo Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st) confirmed a Chicago Tribune report that he plans to block Chick-Fil-A's plans for a restaurant in his ward, because of Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy's public opposition of gay marriage. Moreno said he does not want businesses in the 1st Ward that discriminate against a segment of the community. In the Tribune account, he also called the Cathy's views on gays and lesbians "bigoted" and "homophobic."

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports


"I want responsible businesses that have responsible practices in my ward, and my community does," Moreno said Wednesday, "and if they have a policy that discriminates against a section of our constituency, that's irresponsible."

Some aldermen have suggested Moreno's opposition to a Chick-Fil-A in his ward infringes on free speech, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood by Moreno's stance on Wednesday.

"Chick-Fil-A's values are not Chicago values," the mayor said. "They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors, and our family members. And if you're going to be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect the Chicago values."

Moreno said he's willing to reconsider if the company publicly – in writing – promises not to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The Illinois Family Institute, a group that opposes gay marriage, called Moreno a hypocrite for blocking Chick-Fil-A from coming to his ward because he disagrees with the views of the company's president.

"Here's the alderman turning around and being intolerant and discriminatory because somebody has a different view than he does. Would he do that to a Muslim company?" Illinois Family Institute executive director David Smith said.

He was quoted calling the alderman "intolerant and discriminatory because somebody has a different view than he does."

Chick-Fil-A already has obtained zoning for a planned restaurant in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue, along a busy corridor dominated by big-box retail. But Chick-Fil-A needs City Council approval to divide the land so it can buy an out lot near Home Depot, according to the Tribune report.

Moreno said Chick-Fil-A told him it would not take a position on gay rights or discriminate against any customers at the Elston Avenue restaurant. But he said even though he has been trying to work with the company for eight or nine months, Chick-fil-A will not put its verbally stated anti-discrimination policy into writing.

He says he wants the policy posted on the wall.

Moreno also says there are zoning issues and traffic concerns surrounding a Chick-Fil-A at the Elston Avenue location.

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

The article largely focuses on the history of the company and its mission to operate on "biblical principles" – from closing on Sunday to, in Cathy's words, operating a workplace with a mission to "build respect, rapport and relationships with others that opens the gateway to interest people in knowing God."

But Cathy's comments toward the end of the article drew the ire gay rights supporters across the country. 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."

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."

Cathy further expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage in an interview last month on the radio program "The Ken Coleman Show."

"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," Cathy said on the radio program.

The alderman tells the Tribune that denying the zoning request based on Chick-Fil-A's social views has nothing to do with First Amendment, and "zoning is not a right."

The Tribune reports Moreno has been working on issues related to traffic with Chick-Fil-A for nine months, and had already had concerns about gay rights after reports that the company had donated millions to anti-gay groups.

A the time, the newspaper reports, the company told Moreno it would not take a position on gay rights or discriminate against any customers at the Elston Avenue restaurant.

Cathy's comments already have drawn the high-profile ire of some elected officials and other companies. Earlier this week, the Jim Henson Co., the maker of the Muppets, backed out of a deal to make children's toys for Chick-Fil-A.

"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over 50 years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the company said in part in a statement published to Facebook.

Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has also vowed to block Chick-Fil-A from entering his city at all.

"You called supporters of gay marriage 'prideful.' Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are 'guilty as charged,'" Menino said in a letter to Cathy, "We are indeed full of pride for our support of same sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people."

Wednesday night, Chick-Fil-A released a statement saying, "The Chick-Fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."

Currently, Chick-Fil-A has only one location within the Chicago city limits, at 30 E. Chicago Ave. on the Loyola Water Tower campus. The restaurant also operates Chicago area locations at the Fox Valley center in Aurora, Orland Park, Schaumburg and Wheaton.

Moreno's 1st Ward includes much of the Avondale, Logan Square, Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village neighborhoods.

In another development Wednesday,the gay rights group Equality Illinois is launching a campaign against Chick-Fil-A – petitioning universities and lawmakers to evict the fast food restaurant from their campuses and planning a "kiss-in" campaign by gay and lesbian couples outside Chick-Fil-A restaurants.>/a>

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