Texas Attorney General investigating San Antonio for banning Chick-fil-A from its airport [Updated]

Photo: LindaJoHeilman (iStock)

Updated March 29, 2019: The Texas Tribune reports that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has penned a letter to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the rest of the San Antonio City Council, announcing that he is now investigating San Antonio for potential First Amendment violations after the vote to exclude Chick-fil-A from a revamped terminal at the San Antonio airport. Paxton, a Republican, wrote in the letter: “The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken… Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.” Paxton is also asking U.S. Department Of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to investigate the city’s decision.

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The Texas Tribune says that Mayor Nirenberg is withholding comment until “the city attorney has had adequate time to review the letter.”  

March 25, 2019: Popular chicken-sandwich franchise Chick-fil-A was in plans to join a number of new restaurants in Terminal A at the San Antonio International Airport. But ThinkProgress, a news website from an advocacy organization, reported last week that “the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated $1.8 million to groups that discriminate against the LGBTQ community in 2017, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.” The next day, reports USA Today, the San Antonio City Council voted Chick-fil-A out of the new terminal plans, and cited the chain’s apparent anti-LGBTQ stance as the reason. This amendment to the original plan was approved by a 6-4 vote.

In a statement, Councilman Roberto Treviño said after the vote: “With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior. Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.”

Chick-fil-A was quick to respond in a statement to USA Today: “We wish we had the opportunity to clarify misperceptions about our company prior to the vote. We agree with the councilmember that everyone should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A… In fact, we have welcomed everyone in San Antonio into our 32 local stores for more than 40 years.”

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy gave an interview that included the quote: “We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” The company has previously donated to socially conservative groups like the Marriage And Family Foundation and the Family Research Council.

This is not the first time that Chick-fil-A’s reported anti-gay stance has cost the chain business. Earlier this month, The Root reported that a dean at Rider University in New Jersey resigned because of the school’s refusal to allow Chick-fil-A on campus. Students voted for the chain on a survey but the administration chose not to add it, saying “our intention was to foster a sense of respect and belonging of all members of the campus community, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.” In November, Pittsburgh city officials opposed Chick-fil-A sponsorship of a kids’ marathon because of Cathy’s controversial views on homosexuality and the company’s donations to groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

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[Note: The Root, like The Takeout, is owned by Univision Communications.]

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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.