Citing a “legacy of anti-LBGTQ behavior,” the San Antonio City Council recently voted 6-4 not to include popular fast-food restaurant Chick-fil-A in a seven-year contract for concessions at the city’s airport.
Cities and universities across the United States have attempted to block Chick-fil-A’s expansion because of its Christian heritage. The restaurant’s late founder, S. Truett Cathy, instilled Biblical principles into the company’s practices, and his son Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s chairman, president, and CEO, publicly expressed his support of the Biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. The restaurant’s LGBT detractors point to giving by the Chick-fil-A Foundation to organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose statement of faith says that “marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.” The restaurant chain does not bar LGBT individuals from employment nor does it refuse to serve them.
The March 21 action by the San Antonio City Council stirred up criticism from state and national officials. In a March 27 letter, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, called the vote discriminatory and suggested it may make it difficult to effectively advocate for the city in Congress. The next day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, also a Republican, told the city in a letter that his office would investigate the Chick-fil-A decision to determine if it was unlawfully discriminatory. In a tweet, Paxton called the move “the opposite of tolerance. It’s discriminatory, and not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law.”
Paxton also urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to investigate, given her oversight of federal grant expenditures on things like airport improvements. First Liberty, a law firm devoted to religious liberty issues, petitioned Chao, as well, saying, “Should it be determined that the City of San Antonio engaged in religious discrimination, it should be required to repay grant monies received from the federal government and, further, be disqualified from future federal grant monies.”
In a statement announcing the vote, Councilman Roberto Treviño, who introduced the motion to exclude Chick-fil-A, said, “Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.” Everyone, that is, except those who believe in Biblical marriage. —Steve West