Ald. Proco Joe Moreno has both made and lost a lot of friends in recent weeks. The first-time alderman made a national stand recently when he announced that due to anti-gay comments made by Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy, he would block the fast-food chain from setting up shop in his ward.
It is the second time that Moreno made headlines this year in the name of LGBT support. This spring, he introduced an ordinance that would mandate a pro-transgender policy within the Chicago Police Department.
With the Chick-fil-A controversy starting to subside, Windy City Times sat down with Moreno to reflect on the fallout, the lawsuit against him that resulted and why his stance on the restaurant will not be changing.
Windy City Times: So you've done a lot on LGBT stuff this year. Where does that start for you? How did you become an ally?
Proco Joe Moreno: It's the human-rights and civil-rights issue of our day, and it has been for a long time. I'm just not going to say, "This year I'm going to do an LGBT issue, and next year I'm not." It just happened to become that way. These issues have to be led from the front. None of the rights that were ever fought for and won, whether it's women's suffrage or minority rights … those issues have never been fought from behind.
WCT: What specifically about Dan Cathy's comments made you decide you didn't want Chick-fil-A in the ward?
Proco Joe Moreno: My biggest concern is, and some media outlets did not report well on this, is that they got into this belief system [about] your First Amendment right. That's never been the issue. They can believe and think and say what they want to say. That's protected, even though it might be abhorrent to me. My concern where he was so forward on it was that he used "we."
I was working with the company already, eight months behind the scenes, and they said they weren't going to make any public statements about politics left, right or center. He comes out so forward on it. The concern that I still have today, and had for eight months, is that their policies reflect his beliefs.
They said they were not going to donate to any organization any longer that had a political agenda, which I thought was good… I'm not here to say, "no, no, no" and keep raising the bar on things. It is my responsibility to make sure that his employees, whatever their belief systems are or how they feel, aren't discriminating. That's where it comes down to.
WCT: So what is your response to the lawsuit against you from Chicago Republicans?
Proco Joe Moreno: First of all, it's a second-tier party, if that. I don't even know what the Chicago Republican Party is. So you got a second-tier party trying to get political gain on an issue they don't understand. I haven't even done anything yet. They haven't even proposed the legislation to me. So I haven't even acted the way that they say that I have or am going to. It's like saying, "I'm going to sue you because I think that you're going to pollute the river."
WCT: Has your stance on this Chick-fil-A issue changed at all from when you first came out on it?
Proco Joe Moreno: No.
WCT: Not at all?
Proco Joe Moreno: Let me be clear: For eight months, I've been working with them to clarify their policies. Their stance was, "We're going to obey the law." Well, of course you're going to obey the law. What I want is clarity. What does that mean? Does it mean when you say you might hire a [gay person] under certain circumstances? Does that mean you have to stop being gay when you walk in the restaurant? Because if those are the circumstances, those are discriminatory.
WCT: People have said this is a move to get you re-elected. What is your response to that?
Proco Joe Moreno: First of all, I'm not up for election until 2015. I've been called everything from a hero and I should be the next president to a Nazi.
WCT: What about in the ward?
Proco Joe Moreno: Ninety percent support, I would say … I want the company to adopt the policies they should legally take, [rather] than block them.
WCT: How does your stance benefit the ward?
Proco Joe Moreno: I would say it's good for the country, but one of my responsibilities is to make sure businesses are operating responsibly. One of the top number-one issues of responsibility is saying, "We're not going to discriminate." Now, the criticism is to say, "Well, do you do that for every business that comes in?" Well, no. But none of the businesses have spouted this kind of, or given this kind of money and have this history. So I have to act on that.
You know, we protested outside of Tipsy Cake because of some comments that [the owner] made that we felt were derogatory towards the neighborhood, maybe borderline racist. (The owner of the Tipsy Cake caused a stir earlier this year when she said her bakery left Humboldt Park to avoid bullet holes in the cake and that she named a dessert "Humboldt Crack" because of supposed drug problems in the neighborhood.) I didn't get any negative pushback from that because what she said was pretty abhorrent. But with this…
WCT: Do you think that is because homophobia is still socially acceptable?
Proco Joe Moreno: Yeah. Absolutely.
WCT: So just one last question.
Proco Joe Moreno: I'm not gay. [Laughs]. I've been asked that, too.
WCT: Not exactly my question. Is there anything you want to clear up about the Chick-fil-A controversy?
Proco Joe Moreno: I think that they will open. I think they will come to table and say, "this is what we are willing to do." Now, those were their ideas. I didn't tell them that. I think that's an important thing.