Chick-fil-A, that purveyor of beloved chicken sandwiches and cross-cut fries, has reportedly agreed that it will no longer fund so-called gay-hate organizations. But Chick-fil-A itself isn't saying a peep.
Instead, the news comes secondhand, via a Chicago alderman who had opposed allowing Chick-fil-A in his ward because of its anti-gay marriage stance. He now says he's relented because of Chick-fil-A's change of heart.
Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno told the Chicago Tribune that the restaurant chain has agreed to include a statement of respect for all sexual orientations in an internal document. The chain has also promised that its not-for-profit arm will not contribute money to groups that oppose gay marriage, he said.
The Civil Rights Agenda, which calls itself the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group in Illinois, immediately applauded the chain's move, which would reportedly strip funding from groups such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage. The groups officially oppose same-sex marriage, but critics say their agendas go further, veering into hate-filled and homophobic activities.
Note that absolutely none of this is coming straight from Chick-fil-A headquarters.
A Chick-fil-A spokesman acknowledged Wednesday's news developments but said there would be no further comment beyond re-releasing a statement made in July. That statement says in part: "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
So what does this all mean? Is Chick-fil-A retreating? Did Moreno really wrestle a concession out of the fast-food chain? And perhaps the most important question of all: Can those who followed the boycott get in line for some of those hot, salty fries?
The Chicago Tribune story, which includes quotes from Moreno, sounds skeptical. The story raises the question about whether Chick-fil-A is actually beating a retreat or simply reaffirming its position that it treats everyone with dignity.
Members of the LGBT community have long accused Chick-fil-A of hiding behind this position, noting that no one is accusing the chain of discrimination. Critics say the chain has worked behind-the-scenes to fund organizations with a homophobic agenda.
Rick Jacobs, the founder and chairman of the Courage Campaign, an organization dedicated to progressive change, struck a cautious tone in a statement issued to the news media. "If reports are accurate, this news is a big victory for all the people who stood up for equality and against hate.... If true, today's move by Chick-fil-A is a big step in the right direction."
Chick-fil-A found itself on the front line of the nation's culture wars this summer when gay rights activists launched a boycott of the chain. That led to a massive counter-protest in which thousands upon thousands of Americans nationwide stood in line for hours to stand in support of the chain. That day had been declared Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day by former Arkansas Gov. and outspoken conservative Mike Huckabee.
GLAAD -- the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, one of the most outspoken voices during the summer uproar over Chick-fil-A's anti-gay marriage position -- released the following statement Wednesday:
"It’s time for Chick-fil-A to join the countless American businesses that proudly and publicly support their LGBT employees and customers," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "This news is the first step in Chick-fil-A making good on their promise to treat all people with true hospitality."
But the boycott -- is it over?