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Chick-Fil-A Promises Chicago Alderman: No More Anti-Gay Donations

By Anthony Todd in Food on Sep 19, 2012 1:30PM

Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno's (1st) crusade against Chick-fil-A may have borne fruit. After months of negotiations, Chick-fil-A has sent a letter to Moreno which claims that the company has stopped making donations to anti-gay organizations.

In case you've forgotten, Moreno announced in July that he would do everything he could to stop Chick-fil-A from opening its second Chicago location. This was part of a sudden outburst of anti-Chick-fil-A statements from political leaders and media figures across the country, provoked by comments their President, Dan Cathy, made in opposition to gay marriage. In addition, Chick-fil-A has a long history of donations to anti-gay organizations.

The Civil Rights Agenda, Illinois largest GLBT advocacy organization, has been working with Moreno during negotiations, and issued this statement yesterday.

"In a letter addressed to Alderman Moreno and signed by Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, it [Chick-Fil-A] states, “The WinShape Foundations 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 meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage."

The WinShape Foundation is the charitable arm of Chick-fil-A.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted back in July that "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values." Perhaps this statement will change that a bit. There's a tiny bit of wiggle room here (could money be funneled through another organization, rather than the WinShape Foundation?) but hopefully this signals that Chick-fil-A has realized that these donations are an epically bad PR move.

Moreno released a statement that reads like a little victory dance.

“This is a win for the LGBT community. This is a win for everyone who works for the cause of equal rights, and a win for Chick- fil-A. This is a win for all.”

Now, it's worth pointing out that Cathy, the man who started this flap, may still be just as opposed to gay marriage. He's entitled to his opinion, just like we're entitled to not eat at Chick-fil-A if we object. This is a much more concrete, important change, which will allow consumers to feel sure that their money (except that portion of it that pays Cathy's salary) is not flowing directly to causes they disagree with and that have nothing to do with chicken sandwiches.

In addition to the change in donation policy, the company has issued an internal document, "Chick-fil-A: Who We Are," that reaffirmed their commitment to treat all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, race, creed or gender, with dignity and respect. On this score, the Civil Rights Agenda isn't so happy. Policy adviser Rick Garcia issued this statement.

“Although we are encouraged by their internal statement, we still would 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.”

Is this going to change anyone's mind? It's not clear yet, especially since some Republicans did their best to turn Chick-fil-A into the official sandwich of the Christian right. It may be, at least in the short term, that no amount of damage control can reverse people's perceptions of the brand.