In September, a group of plaintiffs who frequent the San Antonio airport sued the city for continuing to exclude Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in the airport’s concession space.
City attorneys attempted to have the courts dismiss the lawsuit, but a judge on Friday ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.
The suit was filed after Senate Bill 1978 went into effect, popularly referred to as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill.
With the new law in place, individuals have ground to sue government entities if they take “adverse action” against someone based wholly or partly on their donations to organizations or charities with a religious affiliation or set of beliefs.
City council members originally voted to exclude Chick-fil-A from the contract in March 2019, alleging that the chain has a “legacy of anti-LGBT behavior” because of its donations to Christian ministries such as the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which believe marriage is only between one man and one woman.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that his opposition to allowing Chick-fil-A to open in the airport stemmed from economic reasons, contending that a restaurant open seven days a week would earn more money.
However, projections indicated that another option being considered, Panda Express — which is open all week — would have earned $350,000 less annually in sales than Chick-fil-A.
A few months after the San Antonio lawsuit was filed, Chick-fil-A revealed in late 2019 that it ended its multi-year donations to the faith-based organizations being criticized.
The news in its change of donation practices caused pushback from many conservatives who had supported the company for remaining firm in its commitment to traditional Judeo-Christian principles.
In January, the American Family Association (AFA) published a letter it received from Chick-fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy.
“We understand how some thought we were abandoning our longstanding support of faith-based organizations,” Cathy wrote. “We inadvertently discredited several outstanding organizations that have effectively served communities for years.”
The AFA noted that Cathy did not address his concern about the company’s announcement that it would donate to the Covenant House, an organization that the AFA says “openly promotes homosexuality as normal, natural, and healthy.”
Despite the change in donation practices, the city has continued to exclude the restaurant chain from the airport.
It is this continued exclusion that the plaintiffs argue violates SB 1978.
With Judge David Canales’ decision to allow the lawsuit to proceed, the plaintiffs hope to set an example to protect other individuals or businesses targeted because of their donations or religious affiliations.
“In an effort to protect, defend, and promote the family, this is a significant ruling,” said plaintiff Michael Knuffke, according to a press release from the San Antonio Family Association. “The merits of this case will foster the protection of a person, business, and business owner’s liberty.”
The city was not as pleased with Canales’ ruling.
“We are disappointed with the outcome of the hearing and will evaluate our legal options going forward,” said First Assistant City Attorney Liz Provencio, according to reports. “We maintain that the City did nothing wrong and certainly did not violate any law, and we will continue to vigorously defend the City’s interests.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.