Originally published on Advocate.com September 19 2012 10:29 AM ET
Chick-fil-A, the fast food chain that has become a flash point in the culture wars because of its owner’s opposition to marriage equality, has agreed to stop donating to antigay organizations and issued an internal company mandate calling for equal treatment of all employees and customers, according to sources involved with the company’s negotiations to open a restaurant in Chicago.
The Chicago Phoenix reports on progress between Chick-fil-A and Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, who had blocked the chain’s efforts to open in his city after President Dan Cathy said the company supported marriage as the union of a man and a woman. WinShape, the company’s nonprofit charity, has also donated millions of dollars to antigay organizations, including Focus on the Family, which is classified as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“At Chick-fil-A, we have a genuine commitment to hospitality for all of our guests. We have no agenda, policy or position against anyone,” said Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing, in a statement to the Phoenix. “The genuine, historical intent of our WinShape Foundation and corporate giving has been to support youth, family and educational programs. We value everyone and strive to treat all people with a caring spirit.”
The policy shift was outlined in a letter to Moreno signed by Chick-fil-A’s senior director of real estate. The letter reads, “The WinShape Foundations (sic) is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”
In addition, according to the Phoenix, the company issued an internal memo titled “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are” to franchisees and stakeholders. The company said it would “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender,” and that its “intent is not to engage in political or social debates.”
Chick-fil-A still has no corporate anti-discrimination policy in place.
The Civil Rights Agenda advised Moreno and Chick-fil-A during the negotiations. TCRA said it was “pleased” with the outcome, and the alderman called it a “win.” Moreno intends to take steps now to enable the chain to open a location in the city.
The controversy in Chicago extended to other cities this summer, with leaders in Boston, New York City, and San Francisco demanding that Chick-fil-A either change its position or avoid their town. Other prominent voices such as conservative leader Mike Huckabee defended Chick-fil-A, prompting a national debate over free speech and LGBT rights.