After an intense national debate about the anti-gay values and donations of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain and weeks of speculation about a potentially new direction for the company, the Civil Rights Agenda, an Illinois-based LGBT rights organization, announced today in a press release that Chicago alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, who has been an outspoken opponent of the restaurant chain’s potential expansion into his northwestern ward, has viewed an internal Chick-fil-A document pledging to treat all people equally regardless of sexual orientation. The Civil Rights Agenda worked closely with Moreno in an advisory capacity during his negotiations with Chick-fil-A and spoke directly with company executives to educate them about LGBT-related issues. Moreno also confirmed that Chick-fil-A will no longer donate to anti-LGBT organizations.
Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda, said in the statement: “We are very pleased with this outcome and thank Alderman Moreno for his work on this issue. I think the most substantive part of this outcome is that Chick-fil-A has ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights. It has taken months of discussion, both with our organization and with the Alderman, for Chick-fil-A to come forward with these concessions and we feel this is a strong step forward for Chick-fil-A and the LGBT community, although it is only a step.”
The release claims that the internal document was sent to all company franchisees and stakeholders, and that it states that Chick-fil-A will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender,” and that the company’s “intent is not to engage in political or social debates.”
The Civil Rights Agenda’s policy advisor, Rick Garcia, praised the company for this positive step but said that it needs to go further, and that an internal memo is not enough:
“Although we are encouraged by their internal statement, we would still like for the company to adopt an anti-discrimination policy at the corporate level. It is one thing for a company to say they respect everyone they serve and employ, it is quite another for them to put that into their policies and demand that all employees adhere to that behavior. As we have heard from gay employees that work for Chick-fil-A, there is a culture of discrimination within the company and we would like to ensure that employees can speak out and call attention to those practices without fear of reprisal. It takes time to change the culture of any institution and steps like a corporate policy ensure that progress is made.”
What do you think? Does this latest development represent a real, substantive change in direction for the fast food chain, or is Chick-fil-A simply trying to do some damage control here?