Feathers flying

New lawsuit demanding Chick-fil-A restaurant in San Antonio airport ruffles feathers

Lawsuit demanding Chick-fil-A in San Antonio airport ruffles feathers

Chick fil A exterior
Chick-fil-A is at the center of another controversy. Photo courtesy of Chick-fil-A

The decision by the San Antonio City Council to reject Chick-fil-A’s airport concession agreement continues to be a flashpoint in the culture wars. On September 6, a group of local activists announced they were suing the city under Texas’ controversial new “Save Chick-fil-A” law.

The plaintiffs seek an injunction that would order the city and operator Paradies Lagardère to open a Chick-fil-A across from gate A6, according to a release from the San Antonio Family Association. Patrick Von Dohlen, one of the plaintiffs, is the president of the conservative organization.

The lawsuit is the latest skirmish related to the March 21 council vote to reject the famously anti-LGBTQI fast-food chain from establishing an outpost in the San Antonio International Airport. The decision was later affirmed in a narrow 6-5 revote on April 18. Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan T. Cathy, has a long history of supporting organizations opposed to same-sex marriage, such as the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“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,” said Council Member Roberto Treviño in a statement at the time.

Opposition to the vote soon became a cause célèbre among Texas conservatives. In March, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation into the decision and Governor Greg Abbott singed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill into law in June.

Under that law, government entities are prohibited from taking “adverse action” against a business or individual based on membership or support of religious groups. Proponents say it was necessary to preserve religious freedom, but LGBTQ advocacy groups counter that it is a thinly veiled attempt to codify discrimination.

“Senate Bill 1978 has one aim only: to undermine LGBTQ equality and promote anti-LGBTQ messages. This bill is nothing more than an 'anti-LGBTQ dog whistle,'” said Samantha Smoot, interim executive director of Equality Texas, via a June release.

The lawsuit plaintiffs say the statute gives them standing to sue. “We feel a duty to speak up as patrons who have been denied the right to buy Chick-fil-A products at a public facility,” said Von Dohlen in the San Antonio Family Association release. “Clearly, the city has violated the fundamental conscience rights of the business owners."

Despite that assertion, new laws cannot be retroactively enforced. Though the plaintiffs say that Chick-fil-A’s ongoing absence from the airport constitutes a ban, its unclear how the suit will proceed.