(Photo: Reuters/Eric Thayer)
It may not be a union many would envision, but the American Civil Liberties Union has sided with fast-food giant Chick-fil-A after the company came under intense opposition because of statements made by its president supporting traditional marriage.
Key elected leaders in Chicago, San Francisco and Boston have said they would oppose and even block future Chick-fil-A stores from opening in their communities.
Former White House chief-of-staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel chimed in earlier this week after a city alderman suggested they block Chick-fil-A from expanding into his district. "Their values aren't reflective of our city," said Emanuel, who has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage.
At present, there is only one Chick-fil-A within the city limits of Chicago.
However, legal experts maintain that elected city officials have no solid grounds to block a business from setting up shop because of company executives' personal views. An attorney for the ACLU, a group that supports same-sex marriage, weighed in on the issue by saying one cannot reject an application for a permit simply because of someone's words or opinions.
"The government can regulate discrimination in employment or against customers, but what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words," Adam Schwartz, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, told Fox News. "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."
Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley also agreed with the ACLU, saying there were "serious" constitutional concerns over banning businesses over their statements of beliefs.
"It's also a very slippery slope," said Turley on Fox News. "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."
On Friday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood up for Chick-fil-A's right to build where it sees fit. Addressing proposals for a ban by other city CEOs, Bloomberg said it was "not going to happen."
"I disagree with them really strongly on this one," Bloomberg said during an appearance on the John Gambling radio show. "You can't have a test for what the owners' personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city. You really don't want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That's just not government's job."
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was the first mayor to suggest that Chick-fil-A could not build in his city, even going as far as penning a terse letter to Chic-fil-A President Dan Cathy saying, "There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.
Menino later backtracked and admitted that neither he nor his city would deny the restaurant the necessary permits to build in Boston.