The mayor of Chicago said he will back a plan that would prohibit Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant because the company’s support of traditional marriage does not represent the values of the Windy City. But a number of religious liberty groups said the ban would be a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared in a statement to Fox News. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors, residents and family members.”
Emanuel said he supported Alderman Joe Moreno’s plan to use what is called “aldermanic privilege” to block construction of the city’s second Chick-fil-A restaurant in the city’s trendy Logan Square.
The move comes after Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told a Christian news service that his company supported the biblical view of marriage – meaning a union between one man and one woman.
Alderman Moreno called Cathy’s comments “bigoted” and “homophobic.”
“Because of this man’s ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
City officials in Boston and in Mountain View, Calif, a bedroom community of San Francisco, have also announced plans to halt the Atlanta-based restaurant chain from building stores.
Chicago’s planned crackdown on Chick-fil-A was met with approval by some in the city’s gay community.
“I think it’s important that the city sends a message that we want business here…but what we can’t have and don’t want are businesses that have discriminatory roles,” Rick Garcia, of The Civil Rights Agenda, told the Tribune.
A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union said they did not have anyone available to comment on the matter.
So is it legal for any elected official to ban a business simply because they disagree with the political or social beliefs of the company’s leadership?
Mat Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, said it’s unconstitutional.
“No city can ban Chick-fil-A because the president has his own view regarding marriage – a view that his held by much of the American public,” Staver told Fox News. “To discriminate against Mr. Cathy because of his biblical view and then to extrapolate that to Chick-fil-A is illegal. It would be unconstitutional and certainly any city trying to do so would not win that battle.”
Staver called Emanuel’s remarks offensive and accused the city of trying to “bully them into silence.”
“This is a very intolerant response by Rahm Emanuel and some of the others who are pushing back against Chick-fil-A,” he said. “It is absolutely incredible that we are at a point in history where an individual who is an owner of a company can express his view on marriage and get so much push back.”
Staver said there is absolutely no evidence that Chick-fil-A has discriminated against homosexuals. They serve all people equally, he said.
He also took issue with the idea that the restaurant’s values differ from those of Chicagoans.
“I imagine Chick-fil-A’s values are not Rahm Emanuel’s values, but I’m sure the values of Chick-fil-A resonate with a majority of people in Chicago,” Staver said.
Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, said city officials in Boston and Chicago could be facing court challenges.
“Denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation,” Volokh wrote on his popular legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy. “Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if is statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.”
Alderman Moreno is demanding a public apology from the restaurant chain and said he welcomed any kind of legal challenge and said the company doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
“When Cathy comes out in public on it, I’m going to go against him,” he told the Tribune. “I would suggest that the better path, the less expensive path, the more contemporary path, is to work with me on an anti-discriminatory LGBT policy.”
Some religious liberty and pro-family groups believe there could be a positive side to the attacks. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News that Americans are now being exposed to what they’ve been dealing with for years.
“The average American is seeing just how intolerant those that are pushing this whole agenda of same-sex marriage really are,” Perkins said. “Unfortunately it’s happening, but I think there is still time to turn this train around if Americans see what is really at stake here.”
“It’s hard to believe that you have elected officials that are coming out telling a private business that ’We’re going to do everything we can to block you from doing business in our city if your personal views are inconsistent with mine,’” he said. “This is so blatantly illegal, and discriminatory that lawyers have to be lining up right now to challenge these elected officials.”