ATLANTA — After touching off a national debate this summer over gay marriage and freedom of speech, Chick-fil-A is getting out of politics.
At least according to gay rights advocates in Chicago, who announced that they had secured an agreement by the Atlanta chicken chain to stop donating to political or social groups that oppose gay marriage rights.
Chick-fil-A, however, neither confirmed nor denied the claim. Instead, it referred to a statement promising equal treatment and political neutrality that it issued in July, shortly after controversy erupted over comments by top executive Dan Cathy in which he sided with traditional marriage proponents.
Still, the Chicago announcement, issued by city Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno and the Civil Rights Agenda group, fueled Internet headlines trumpeting Chick-fil-A's change of position.
That sparked split reactions among customers.
"Victory never tasted so sweet," said one of many commenters on the company's Facebook page, Anyone for Chick-fil-A? "If this story is true," wrote another, "Chick Fil A better be ready to lose alot of customers in the future." Some said company executives should clarify whether anything has actually changed.
Moreno had blocked the opening of a new Chicago location because of the controversy, which stemmed not only from Cathy's comments but also from Chick-fil-A's purported support of groups considered antigay.
In the announcement, dated Tuesday, Moreno said that after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, his office and Civil Rights Agenda struck a deal with Chick-fil-A to treat the gay, lesbian and transgendered community with equality.
Moreno said he will support the new location as a result.
While Cathy has said he was expressing only personal comments, gay rights advocates say the company, through franchisees and its WinShape Foundation, has given money to groups they consider antigay.
Moreno's office said Chick-fil-A promised to refrain from backing such groups as part of the new deal.