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Chick-Fil-A controversy hits home in Chicago community

By Lily Rose
On August 7, 2012

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution was created to protect religious freedoms, free speech, writing and publishing, and the people's right to peacefully assembly, as well as the liberty to petition our government. With that said, the Jim Henson Company's withdrawal from their partnership with the popular fast food chain Chick-Fil-A is just as protected as Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy's admission that the company is, "guilty as charged" when it comes to their beliefs that marriage should exclusively be between a man and a woman.

The Jim Henson Company took to their Facebook page July 20 to explain the withdrawal. "The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the company wrote, "Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to [the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation]."

This has created a major source of turmoil for the American community. Equality groups have started boycotts against the Chick-Fil-A brand: many have held nationwide same-sex "kiss-ins" to protest the company's views on homosexual unions, and some equality-minded individuals have come to the fast food chain decked out in their best shades of rainbow to show their pride.

Chicago has quickly become a battleground for mayor Rahm Emanuel also commented on the controversy. "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values," Emanuel told the Chicago Sun Times. "They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you're gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values."

First Ward Ald. Joe Moreno is attempting to block the opening of a new Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Logan Sqaure, telling the Chicago Tribune that, "if you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don't want you in the 1st Ward," and "you have the right to say what you want to say, but zoning is not a right."

Chick-Fil-A is not without its supporters: popular brands like Forever 21, Interstate Battery, Tyson Foods, In-N-Out Burger, and Hobby Lobby stand by and support Chick-Fil-A's choice of publicly declaring their traditional Christian views on marriage. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee began a "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day," which Chick-Fil-A said led to a "record-setting day" of sales after free speech supporters and same-sex marriage opponents rallied behind the brand.

Some DePaul students, though, are torn on how to handle the controversy. While some students feel that Chick-Fil-A's views need to be peacefully protested because it is a form of intolerance-and post various Facebook statuses, tweets, and Instagram photos at "kiss-ins" demonstrating their right to protest-other students feel that this is a free speech issue and that there is nothing to be done. DePaul sophomore Lexi Holden maintains that "Chik-Fil-A should continue to serve everyone who enjoys their food despite [everyone's] personal marital beliefs. Chick-Fil-A has their own marital beliefs and people may or may not agree with it which is not a good or bad thing-everyone is entitled to their own beliefs."

DePaul's Institute for Business and Professional Ethics executive director Patricia Werhane seems to have found a balance between her personal beliefs on equality and her feelings on free speech. "Individuals should be able to choose what and where they eat, but I will not go to any restaurant whose CEO discriminates against gays (or anyone else)," Werhane said. "The boycott by Henson sends a strong message to the company about the views of their leader. Unfortunately it punishes franchises who own their own Chick-Fil-A restaurants."

When DePaul students were asked what Chick-Fil-A's next move should be as a company, it was an almost unanimous answer. Students agreed that the company's old-school views would be certainly better received in areas of America with more traditional beliefs and that Dan Cathy and his corporation should focus their concentration in those areas. Public Relations and Advertising major Mary L'abbate suggested that, "Chick-Fil-A is firm in their marital views, it might be best for them to push their marketing into more conservative, rural areas of the U.S."

In the meantime, demonstrations remain peaceful with both groups paying respect to their First Amendment rights. There has only been one reported instance of vandalism: a Chick-Fil-A in Torrance, CA, was graffitied overnight with the phrase, "Tastes Like Hate."

But Chick-Fil-A's supporters-be they pro-free speech, pro-traditional values, or both- probably taste the same fried chicken they always have: in fact, it may taste a little bit sweeter.

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