In recent days, various media reports revealed that Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno was exercising his “aldermanic discretion” to block the construction of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in his ward. Alderman Moreno repeated to several media outlets that his objection was based on recent statements by the restaurant’s President, Dan Cathy, opposing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The American Civil Liberties Union of strongly opposes blocking the placement of the restaurant on the basis of the company’s President’s statements. The following can be attributed to the ACLU of Illinois:
Alderman Moreno’s single-handed actions are wrong and dangerous. The ACLU of Illinois strongly supports full recognition and fair treatment for LGBT persons in Chicago and across Illinois. Indeed, our strong support for the LGBT community led us in May to file a lawsuit challenging the state ban in Illinois on the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. At the same time, we oppose using the power and authority of government to retaliate against those who express messages that are controversial or averse to the views of current office holders. In this instance, the Alderman is using his governmental authority to exclude a business from opening its doors simply because the corporate leadership has expressed anti-LGBT views in the public. This use of government authority simply is not permissible under our Constitution.
We also are concerned how this practice might be applied in the future. If the government is permitted to deny entrance into a Chicago community to Chick-Fil-A based on statements about public policy, then government elsewhere will have the power to exclude the expanding number of businesses who support fairness for LGBT people. Over the longer term, such government censorship would undermine the growing success of the LGBT rights movement.