Is City Council’s Chick-Fil-A Ban leverage for an already volatile election cycle?

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Article by: Jonathan Guajardo - Editor, The San Antonio Sentinel

When the San Antonio City Council voted 6-4 in March to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening a branch of their highly successful restaurant chain in the San Antonio International Airport, their decision was met with a variety of responses from local and national audiences. Some saw it as a knock against religious freedom, citing the council’s decision having to do with the franchise’s Christian beliefs and supposedly anti-LGBTQ standpoints, while others saw it as an attack on the city’s business sector and a foolish economic decision to block one of America’s most popular fast-food chains from providing travelers with a meal that has become a crowd-favorite across the nation. While there is certainly another side of the story put forth by local politicians such as Councilman Roberto Trevino, who was the initial objector to the Chick-Fil-A proposition, it is important to note that this particular issue has roiled the blood of citizens across both sides of the aisle.

Trevino continues to back his decision, stating that, “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.”

The anti-LGBTQ sentiment echoed by Trevino centers mainly around the company’s decision to donate $1.65 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as well as the Salvation Army and the Paul Anderson Youth Home, all organizations that have a decidedly Christian-centric message. Also, on the Chick-Fil-A website, there is a paragraph under the “Who We Are” tab that explains another one of their Christian-centric tenets, being closed on Sundays. The website states that, “Our founder, Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose - a practice we uphold today.”

Recently, the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, tweeted that “The City of San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A based on the religious beliefs associated with the company and its owners is the opposite of towerance. It’s discriminatory, and not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law.” This tweet came along with an edited photo of the Texas “Come and Take It” flag with a Chick-Fil-A fry basket substituted for the traditional canon. Similar sentiments have been shared by many news outlets including the national news site, Fox News.

While it remains to be seen what may happen with the city’s decision being investigated by the attorney general, it must be stated that it does come on the heels of Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s first term as Mayor of San Antonio and in the middle of the San Antonio mayoral race. Perhaps this new push for LGBTQ activism has been initiated to spur conversation around Nirenberg’s progressive stance and to further distance himself from challenger and current city councilman, Greg Brockhouse, who has been vocal about his support of having a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in the airport. In an interview with News4SA on Monday, April 1st, he stated, “By excluding Chick-Fil-A, what we did was we turned ourselves into a community that looks like we are anti faith, and I couldn’t stand for that.”

With this war over Chick-Fil-A becoming a hot-button issue within the city and the nation, it will undoubtably remain a topic that will continue to resurface in upcoming mayoral debates. Already, we have seen the topic breached on radio and live-streamed debates and, as there is a 60-90 day window to readdress the issue again, it can be assured that this will remain a deep-seated issue through the remainder of the San Antonio mayoral election cycle.