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updated: 7/27/2012 7:19 AM

Lombard trustee urges support for Chick-fil-A

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  • Peter Breen

      Peter Breen

 

A Lombard village trustee plans to introduce a measure to create a local "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on Aug. 1 in response to Chicago Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno's decision to block construction of the chain's restaurant in Logan Square.

Moreno said he plans to use his aldermanic privilege to block the construction because of comments made last week by company President Dan Cathy. Cathy was quoted July 16 in the Baptist Press saying he was against gay marriage and supported "the biblical definition of the family unit."

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported Moreno, saying in a statement the restaurant's values do not mesh with Chicago's.

Lombard Trustee Peter Breen responded Thursday by saying the restaurant deserves support. He argues the two Chicago politicians are ignoring constitutional rights and damaging their business community.

"This is against everything we hold dear as Americans," Breen said. "That is bigotry, pure and simple. I'm a guy who has a clear public position against same-sex marriage. But the focus in my role as a trustee is to support free exercise of religion and freedom of speech, as well as business development and job growth."

Chick-fil-A opened a restaurant in Lombard earlier this year as part of a long-planned expansion into Chicago and its suburbs. Breen said the restaurant has proved to be a good community partner for charitable events and for bringing sales-tax dollars to Lombard.

"Their economic impact is huge, even bigger than an average fast-food restaurant," Breen said. "You don't develop that following unless you've got a superior product and superior experience. People feel welcomed, the product's quality is high, and this is the kind of business we ought to be promoting."

Breen has been a trustee since May of last year and has led Lombard's economic and community development committee since shortly after being elected. He said he expects fellow trustees will vote when the committee meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday to approve his resolution to create "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on Aug. 1.

If it passes, Breen said he hopes "lots of folks from Lombard and neighboring communities will shop at our Chick-fil-A and eat the best chicken sandwiches on the planet."

The measure is part of other efforts to expand business opportunities in the village, Breen said, including exploring the idea of offering permits for outdoor dining downtown.

But ultimately, he said, the measure is a message to Moreno and Emanuel "to call them into account." He said their actions deprive residents of jobs, target a local business owner and do not directly impact Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy.

In an e-blast to constituents sent Thursday, Moreno defended his actions.

"In every meeting I had with Chick-fil-A people over the last nine months they told me they didn't support anti-gay causes," the statement said. "Last week, the comments from the CEO of the company made it clear that they were lying to my face in every one of those meetings. Also, there were issues with increased traffic congestion, which were never resolved."

Moreno added that he is "a staunch believer in equality (and) will not support a business that discriminates against a minority population."

Breen said he understands some Lombard residents agree with Moreno and may think prohibition of same-sex marriage is a violation of civil rights.

"That's a wonderful political stance that folks in this country can take, because this is a free society," Breen said. "But favoring traditional marriage: that is the majority position.

"I've spoken to people on both sides in Lombard and all are outraged that government is taking a religious position and using it to take a business from locating to a particular area," Breen said. "People can have whatever views they want, but I want them all to have jobs, I want them all working and I want everyone to express themselves freely. You can do that in Lombard; apparently we're getting to a point where you can't do that in Chicago."

Chick-fil-A had not responded to request from other media outlets earlier this week, but on Thursday spokesman Jerry Johnston told the Daily Herald in an email "service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

He added that the restaurant chain plans to continue this philosophy.

"Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena," Johnston said.

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