Five Texas fans of Chick-fil-A have filed a lawsuit against the city of San Antonio for its decision to ban the chicken-centric chain from opening up shop in the local airport. In March, city council officials rejected the restaurant’s bid to open a new location in San Antonio International Airport due to the company’s alleged “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”
On Sept. 5, plaintiffs Patrick Von Dohlen, Brian Greco, Kevin Jason Khattar, Michael Knuffke and Daniel Petri filed suit against the city under S.B. 1978, otherwise known as the "Save Chick-fil-A Bill.”
Supporters of the bill argue that the provision, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, defends the fast-food restaurant and protects religious freedoms, while opponents say it discriminates against the LGBTQ community.
The new law stops the government from taking unfavorable action against a business or person for contributing to religious organizations.
"The continued religious ban on Chick-fil-A by the San Antonio City Council has left citizens with no choice but to take this case to court," Jonathan Saenz, president of conservative group Texas Values Action said of the lawsuit in a statement on Monday, as per The Texas Tribune. "Any other vendor that tries to replace Chick-fil-A at the airport will be doing so under a major cloud of long and costly litigation with the city.”
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs pushed for the court to declare that the city of San Antonio “violated and continues to violate” the law by banning Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio airport and issue an injunction to block the city and airport shop operator Paradies Lagardère from banning the chain at the air hub in the future. Furthermore, the plaintiffs also hope to issue another injunction to have a Chick-fil-A open at the airport and issue an order to stop the city from "taking any adverse action against Chick-fil-A or any other person or entity, which is based wholly or partly on that person or entity's support for religious organizations that oppose homosexual behavior” and receive attorney’s fees and other relief.
In response, Laura Mayes, chief communications officer for the city of San Antonio, told the Tribune that the lawsuit "is an attempt by the plaintiffs to improperly use the court to advance their political agenda."
"Among the many weaknesses in their case, they are trying to rely on a law that did not exist when Council voted on the airport concessions contract," Mayes said. "We will seek a quick resolution from the Court.”
Reps for Chick-fil-A and the city of San Antonio were not immediately available to offer further comment.
In March, six members of the San Antonio City Council rejected the inclusion of Chick-fil-A from the new Food, Beverage and Retail Prime Concession Agreement for the local airport due to the company’s alleged “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”
“With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion," Councilman Roberto Treviño said of the vote, as per News 4 San Antonio. "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," he continued.
The day before, Think Progress published tax documents revealing that in 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave over $1.8 million in charitable donations to some organizations that have come under scrutiny regarding their stance on LGBTQ issues.
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Over $1.65 million of that contribution was given to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which writes in an online “Statement of Faith” that it believes “marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman,” and believes “sexual intimacy” should only be expressed “within [that] context,” CBS News reports.
Responding to the news, a rep for Chick-fil-A offered Fox News the following statement on the story. “The press release issued by Councilmember Treviño was the first we heard of his motion and its approval by the San Antonio City Council. We agree with him that everyone is and should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A,” a spokesperson said. “We have a fundamental code of conduct at Chick-fil-A: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“We would still welcome the opportunity to have a thoughtful dialogue with the city council and plan to reach out to them. It’s unfortunate that mischaracterizations of our brand have led to decisions like this,” they continued.
“The sole focus of the Chick-fil-A Foundation is to support causes focused on youth and education. We are proud of the positive impact we are making in communities across America and have been transparent about our giving on our web site,” the restaurant rep concluded.
Days after the news of the San Antonio airport ban broke, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he was opening an investigation into the city's decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from the contract with the local air hub. In June, Paxton filed a petition in relation to the investigation "to compel the city to hand over documents related to its decision," according to the Free Beacon.
In recent headlines, on Friday, the grand opening of Chick-fil-A’s first international location in Toronto was met by a large protest Friday by LGBTQ activists, who argued that the chicken-centric chain owner’s historically antigay policies will clash with the culture of Canada's largest city.
Fox News’ Talia Kaplan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.