New York City Council Speaker Quinn has broken with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in declaring that Chick-fil-A restaurants are not welcome in New York City as long as the company contributes to antigay groups and president Don Cathy maintains his discriminatory views.
The out lesbian, who married her partner in May, launched an online petition Saturday calling Cathy's recent comments against marriage equality "repugnant and un-American." The campaign, which is being promoted through social media and the Council's website, demands that the business executive "apologize and change his position."
"We are not going to eat at Chick-fil-A or patronize businesses that do not reflect the diversity and openness of our great city," says the petition. The document received 73 signatures in the first three hours after its launch.
Chick-fil-A has been under fire because of reports showing millions of dollars in donations to antigay groups. Cathy stoked more outrage recently when he said the company supported "the biblical definition of a family" and told a radio interviewer, "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.'"
The simmering national controversy reached boiling point in the Big Apple when Bloomberg said Friday that the idea of blocking the restaurant from opening was "a bad idea and it's not going to happen" under his leadership. The independent mayor was responding to attempts by his colleagues in other cities, including Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, to thwart the fast food chain because of Cathy's statements and its antigay donations.
"You can't have a test for what the owners' personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city," said Bloomberg. "You really don't want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit, that's just not government's job."
Quinn, a leading Democratic mayoral prospect for 2013, distanced herself from the mayor hours after he spoke. The two have been frequent allies on the issues of marriage equality and economic development.
"I don't want them to come here," she told reporters, according to the Daily News. "I don't want companies to open in New York that are led in a discriminatory way."
In addition to the petition, Quinn also sent a letter to NYU President John Sexton asking him to remove a Chick-fil-A restaurant from the Greenwich Village campus. This past week, the City Council handed Sexton a major victory by green-lighting a controversial expansion plan for the university.
Quinn mentioned NYU's "long history of celebrating diversity" in the letter and said that current employees of the Chick-fil-A should be hired by whatever business replaces it.
"As such I urge you to sever your relationship with the Chick-fil-A establishment that exists on your campus," she wrote. "This establishment should be replaced with an establishment where the ownership does not denigrate a portion of our population. In ending this relationship, I also urge you to keep the workers who are employed by Chick-fil-A and ensure that the replacement restaurant lets them retain their jobs. The employees of the Chick-fil-A should not suffer because of the shortsightedness and homophobia of the President of the corporation that employs them."
NYU is home to the only outpost of the fast food chain in the city. A petition calling for the removal of the restaurant because of its antigay stances has received more than 11,000 signatures, but this past winter the Student Senators Council voted to keep Chick-fil-A on free speech grounds.
In her remarks to reporters Friday, Quinn talked about the importance of sending a signal to companies that hold discriminatory beliefs. However, she acknowledged there might be little the city can actually do to stop Chick-fil-A unless the restaurant is violating antidiscrimination laws.
"I don't know that there is legal action I could take," she said. "If there was, I might, but I don't think there is. Look if the owner of Chick-fil-A sends out some memo that says you can't sell a sandwich to someone you think is a lesbian, you bet your bottom dollar we're closing them down and kicking them out, but there is no evidence that has happened."