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posted: 7/31/2012 8:22 AM

Editorial: The separation of business, politics

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We took a stand a few weeks ago in support of same-sex marriage. As a newspaper, we felt it important to speak out on one of the major social issues of the day and urge our government officials to do what we believe is right and allow for marriage equality in this state and in the country.

As a business, we know that when we take a stand on a controversial issue, some people will disagree with us. We hope they'll recognize that part of our role is to spur debate on matters of public concern. And we hope that even if they still object, they'll remain our customers because of all the other ways in which we bring them value, but some don't. That's their right. And we certainly don't expect or need politicians on either side of those issues getting involved in our business by trying to sway our customers.

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Yet that's what's happening as it relates to Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain, in big cities such as Chicago and right here in the suburbs in Lombard. It should stop.

The president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, has chosen to be very public with his opposition to same-sex marriage and to help fund groups that fight it. He is entitled to his opinion, even if we disagree with it. It's no different from the announcement Friday that Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is donating $2.5 million to the campaign to defend the state of Washington's same-sex marriage law.

Don't agree with Cathy? You have the right, though we think it may be going a bit far, to stop eating his company's food. Don't agree with Bezos? Again, the consumers' choice is either to separate the CEO's views from his business or to stay off his site. It's that simple.

What's not needed is Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno saying he will block the opening of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in his ward because of Cathy's gay marriage stance. Or similar remarks from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. They can state their opinions, yes. But they shouldn't abuse their power and try to stop businesses from operating.

What's also not needed is the insertion of this issue at the Lombard village board meeting tonight. Trustee Peter Breen, who is executive director of law firm that specializes in fighting gay marriage among other conservative causes, wants a vote on a resolution in support of "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on Wednesday. Breen says it's not because of his views opposing same-sex marriage but because of Chicago's anti-business attitude as exemplified by Moreno's actions.

"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," he said.

Funny, we don't recall Breen proposing a "JCPenney Appreciation Day" in Lombard to support one of the major anchors of Yorktown Shopping Center when it was threatened with a national boycott because it hired comic Ellen DeGeneres, a lesbian, as a spokeswoman. Of course he didn't. And he shouldn't. He's welcome to stop shopping at Penney's and to eat as many chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A as he can. But the village government should officially stay out of it.

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