AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter Thursday to the San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and city council members letting them know he is opening an investigation surrounding the city’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from a concession contract that city staff recommended.
By separate letter, he also requested Secretary Elaine Chao of the United States Department of Transportation open an investigation into “the city of San Antonio’s potential violation of federal law and Transportation Department regulations when the city banned Chick-fil-A from operating a restaurant in the San Antonio International Airport based on the company’s religious beliefs.”
According to Paxton last Thursday, the San Antonio City Council voted to remove Chick-fil-A from a new airport concessionaire contract “citing Chick-fil-A owners’ religious beliefs.”
According to Paxton, “The Council was in the process of approving a concessionaire agreement with Paradies Legadere (Paradies) to run concession facilities in the San Antonio airport. The Paradies proposal included a license that would bring Chick-fil-A to the airport.”
“The City of San Antonio’s decision to exclude a respected vendor based on the religious beliefs associated with that company and its owners is the opposite of tolerance,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The city’s discriminatory decision is not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law.”
The First Amendment protects individuals and closely held companies from governmental restrictions based on their religious views or religious status. Additionally, federal regulations governing grant money provided to the San Antonio airport prohibit religious discrimination, the AG’s office said in a news release Thursday.
“You should also note that I have directed my office to open an investigation into whether the City’s action violates state law,” Paxton told Mayor Nirenberg and city council members in a letter Thursday. “I trust the City will fully cooperate with my investigation into this matter, and will abide by relevant federal and state laws in the future.”
In his letter to Chao — also on Thursday — Paxton cited comments from a city council meeting where he alleges discrimination. He said that when the council moved to approve the contract that would have allowed the restaurant at the airport, a council member instead moved to exclude and replace Chick-fil-A. Paxton said, “His [the council member’s] rationale was that Chick-fil-A has a ‘legacy of anti-LGBT behavior.'” Paxton said the Council member who seconded the motion referred to Chick-fil-A as a “symbol of hate.”
“The Council voted 6-4 with one abstention for the motion to have staff work toward substituting Chick-fil-A in the Paradies agreement,” continued Paxton. “Ironically, the City’s efforts to be ‘inclusive’ resulted in the exclusion of Chick-fil-A based on its religious beliefs.”