SE Texas Record

Monday, October 21, 2019

Texas AG investigating San Antonio decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from airport

By David Yates | Apr 15, 2019

AUSTIN – On Thursday, Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a second letter to San Antonio councilmembers, making an open records request for documents related to an investigation of the city’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport.

In late March, the city narrowly approved a new concession agreement for the airport, aimed at bringing in more local establishments while specifically banning Chick-fil-A.

After the decision, Councilman Robert Trevino made the following comment: “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.”

In the letter, Paxton requests public records revealing communications between councilmembers, city employees, and third parties that discuss the inclusion or exclusion of Chick-fil-A in the concessionaire contract for the airport. 

The request also seeks calendars, records of councilmember meetings regarding the contract, and any internal communications among city employees about the inclusion or exclusion of Chick-fil-A from the concessionaire contract.

“The decision to discriminate against any vendor based on religious beliefs associated with the company and its owners flies in the face of the Constitution and Texas law,” Paxton said. “I look forward to reviewing the City of San Antonio’s records explaining why the City Council targeted this respected restaurant chain for exclusion from the City’s concessionaire contract for the international airport.”

The decision also sparked an op-ed from Mark Pulliam, an attorney who questioned San Antonio’s “symbolic” campaign against Chick-fil-A.

"When politics become a weapon in the culture war, the stakes quickly escalate,” Pulliam wrote. “Winning emboldens bullies to become still more aggressive. A lawsuit by Chick-fil-A is almost certain; San Antonio taxpayers will foot the bill for their city council’s vindictive foolishness.”

Pulliam told the Record that it’s heartening to see Paxton defend the constitution in the face of a “brazen attack” on the First Amendment.

“Councilman Roberto Trevino’s comments made it clear that Chick-fil-A was barred from the airport due to anti-religious bigotry,” Pulliam said. “General Paxton’s record request is laying the groundwork for legal action in the event that the city does not rescind its unlawful decision.”    

On March 28, Paxton sent a letter to the mayor and city council members of San Antonio announcing an investigation regarding their decision. In a separate letter, Attorney General Paxton also urged to Secretary Elaine Chao of the U.S. Department of Transportation to open an investigation into the City of San Antonio’s potential violation of federal law and Transportation Department regulations.

The First Amendment protects individuals and closely held companies from governmental restrictions based on their religious views or status. Additionally, federal regulations governing grant money provided to the San Antonio airport prohibit religious discrimination.

The city council will reconsider it previous vote on April 18.

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Chick Fil A Texas