UPDATE: San Jose, California is the latest city to oppose opening a Chick-fil-A restaurant in its airport. While Chick-fil-A has already been approved for a contract at the Mineta San Jose International Airport until 2026, City Council members voted against a contract extension, stating that Chick-fil-A holds an “anti-LGBTQ stance.” City Council members also voted to make the airport location the “gayest Chick-fil-A in the country” by hanging LGBT flags around the restaurant.
As recent history has shown, going after Chick-fil-A tends to backfire.
Remember when same-sex marriage activists called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A in 2012? Locations across the country reported record numbers of customers, with lines going out the doors and snaking around the buildings.
Or remember when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on New Yorkers to boycott Chick-fil-A in 2016? The two NYC locations were so busy that it prompted Chick-fil-A to consider opening 12 more locations in the Big Apple.
Why the call for boycotts in the first place? Are these people anti-chicken? Do they have some kind of issue with the cows used in Chick-fil-A’s popular advertisements? Do they not like fast-food workers that serve them with kindness and hospitality?
Nope. It’s all because Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy expressed his views about marriage on the radio – specifically his biblically based belief that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman.
Now, this anti-Chick-fil-A movement is picking up steam once again.
More Than a Boycott
In the past two weeks, two different cities (San Antonio, TX and Buffalo, NY) blocked Chick-fil-A from opening locations in their local airports.
And their reasoning sounds familiar.
San Antonio city councilmembers claimed that Chick-fil-A has a “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior” and is a “symbol of hate” that will make people feel unwelcome. (Apparently, they’ve never set foot inside one of these restaurants and experienced the unwavering dedication to hospitality.) And New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "The views of Chick-fil-A do not represent our state or the Western New York community..."
The views of Chick-fil-A? Like making a delicious chicken sandwich and serving the local community? I’m sorry. But who’s the one making whom feel unwelcome?
It’s not just us sounding the alarm. Even the American Civil Liberties Union in New York (NYCLU) sees the constitutional problem in banning Chick-fil-a.
According to NYCLU Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs Erika Lorshbough, “The First Amendment does not permit the [transportation authority in Buffalo] to base its contracting decisions on the political views of a vendor.”
That’s why Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked for an investigation into San Antonio’s decision to remove Chick-fil-A as an airport vendor, pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission:
The City’s decision to specifically exclude Chick-fil-A from a government program based on the sincerely-held religious beliefs of its leadership raises serious constitutional questions . . . [T]he Supreme Court has soundly rebuked state actors for actions based on animosity to religious belief similar to those in question here.
While elected officials in San Antonio and Buffalo have tried to claim that Chick-fil-A discriminates, there is no evidence to support that. Chick-fil-A hires LGBT people and serves everyone who walks in its doors. And it is dedicated to serving the local community. In the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016, Chick-fil-A employees worked on a Sunday (when the restaurant is typically closed) to make free food for law enforcement officers and blood donors.
Does that sound like hate to you?
Part of a Growing Trend
Unfortunately, efforts to exclude certain businesses from the marketplace because of their religious beliefs about marriage are becoming more common. Just look at what’s happening with floral artist Barronelle Stutzman and t-shirt designer Blaine Adamson. Or look at how Colorado treated cake artist Jack Phillips.
Despite the fact that countless people of goodwill – from faith traditions as diverse as Islam and Christianity – believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, some have labelled this viewpoint as hateful and unwelcome in the public square.
No one should be bullied or banished from the marketplace by the government for peacefully expressing their beliefs. That includes Chick-fil-A and its CEO Dan Cathy.
And if someone doesn’t like it, they have the freedom to “eat less chikin.”
A government that has the power to exclude Chick-fil-A because of its beliefs also has the power to exclude any other organization for its beliefs.
And if that’s the case, who’s next? And where does it stop?