What if Chick-fil-A believes in dignity and respect for all -- including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people?
What if WinShape, Chick-fil-A's foundation, ceases donations to anti-gay groups?
What if Chick-fil-A adds sexual orientation to its company anti-discrimination statement for its employees?
The fact is that Chick-fil-A has not commented on any of these "what if" statements or shared anything to substantiate the claims by Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno and the Illinois-based Civil Rights Agenda. The only action that Chick-fil-A has taken in recent weeks was to have private conversations in an effort to find "common ground," and to reiterate the company's stance through an internal Chick-fil-A memo.
I know this because Campus Pride has had several conversations and two in-person meetings with Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy and company leadership since early August. After another private meeting with Chick-fil-A on Monday in its Atlanta-based national headquarters, Campus Pride chose to suspend its "5 Simple Facts About Chick-fil-A," a nationwide college campaign. The decision to suspend the campaign was a result of these ongoing meetings and hopeful dialogue suggesting that Chick-fil-A would uphold its values of "respect and dignity for all."
Alderman Moreno and the Civil Rights Agenda chose to claim a "win" by issuing a press release on Wednesday announcing that Chick-fil-A had stopped funding anti-gay groups and that the company had added "sexual orientation" to the its anti-discrimination clause. This claim was based on an internal Chick-fil-A memo and supposed conversations between Chick-fil-A and the alderman.
But let me be clear: Chick-fil-A has not made any public statements or changes in policy. It may be weeks, months, or even years before the claims by Alderman Moreno are found to be true -- or false. Campus Pride chose only to suspend our national campaign in an effort to encourage further dialogue and possible public action in the future. To say Chick-fil-A is doing anything more is premature and foolish and is nothing more than political grandstanding.
At the end of the day, this issue is not about a political "win" for Campus Pride. We are encouraged by our talks with Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A to find "common ground," and we are hopeful. We encourage everyone, including our college student leaders, to be patient, continue educating others on how this issue affects you, and always model civility in your actions. We must also be willing to sit down with Chick-fil-A and campus food-service providers, whether it be Sodexo, Aramark, or Chartwells. These are the companies that have licensing agreements with Chick-fil-A.
Yes, I am disturbed by Alderman Moreno's haphazard announcement with the Civil Rights Agenda. I am not sure if this was merely a politically expedient way to grab media attention for him, or if it was his opportunity to backtrack on his legally questionable efforts to forbid Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in Chicago.
The fact that Chick-fil-A has not come forward to confirm any of his claims should raise doubts on whether Alderman negotiated concessions with the company. I sincerely don't understand how he and the Civil Rights Agenda could have negotiated these concessions with Chick-fil-A when Chick-fil-A has not substantiated any of these advancements publicly. How is this a "win" for anyone?
Frankly, this should not be a political game, Alderman Moreno. The emotions are too high on both sides of this issue. Campus Pride is taking it day by day with Chick-fil-A, and we are hopeful that "common ground" will lead to future action. But, until then, your claims are not helpful to anyone and only further politicize the issue.
Let us be smart, hopeful, and vigilant -- and cautious. Dialogue is a means to understanding. And understanding is a means to authentic, lasting progress that all parties can be proud of. Remember, Alderman Moreno, as the adage goes, don't count your chickens before they are hatched.