City officials’ threats against Chick-fil-A may backfire

As we reported several days ago, Chick-fil-A is receiving heavy criticism from liberals and the gay community for its stance on traditional marriage.  Now, local city officials are trying to create economic hardship for the restaurant chain.  Not so fast say legal experts:

On July 20, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino indicated that Chick-fil-A will find it “very difficult” to obtain licenses for a restaurant in his city, but he backed away from that assertion. He later told the Boston Herald, “I can’t do that. That would be interference to his rights to go there.”

Chicago is the latest city to tell Chick-fil-A that it is not welcome. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said July 25 he would support Alderman Proco Moreno’s announcement that he would block construction of the restaurant in his district. Moreno said, “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the First Ward.” Emanuel has articulated similar sentiments. He said, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.”

But according to legal experts, barring construction of Chick-fil-A because the owners oppose gay marriage is a clear case of discrimination. “The government can regulate discrimination in employment or against customers, but what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words,” said Adam Schwartz, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “When an alderman refuses to allow a business to open because its owner has expressed a viewpoint the government disagrees with, the government is practicing viewpoint discrimination.”

Schwartz noted that even the American Civil Liberties Union, which is known for its pro-gay “marriage” position, recognizes that the government cannot exclude a business simply because it has taken a stance against gay “marriage.” Such a policy could be a slippery slope and could then be used against businesses that support gay “marriage.” Though the ACLU supports gay “marriage,” “we also support the First Amendment,” Shwartz said. “We don’t think the government should exclude Chick-fil-A because of the anti-LGBT message. We believe this is clear cut.”

Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, said Moreno’s intentions raises “serious” constitutional concerns. “It’s also a very slippery slope,” Turley told “If a City Council started to punish companies because of the viewpoints of their chief operating officers, that would become a very long list of banned companies.” Turley said that Moreno’s actions could be “execessive and likely unconstitutional.”

Read more from Raven Clabough’s story HERE.