Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who has a long record of opposing LGBTQ rights, has launched an investigation into the San Antonio City Council’s decision not to include a Chick-fil-A location at the city’s airport.
Despite Paxton’s own claims about supporting “state sovereignty,” he has asked the federal Department of Transportation to investigate the matter as well.
A day after ThinkProgress reported that the most recent tax filings by Chick-fil-A’s foundation revealed $1.8 million in donations to anti-LGBTQ groups in 2017, the San Antonio City Council voted, 6 to 4, to remove a planned Chick-fil-A location from its airport concessions deal last week. The effort was led by District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño, who noted 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.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg backed the decision, but noted his rationale was financial: Chick-fil-A locations are closed on Sundays, meaning about 15 percent less income for the city.
Paxton released a statement on Thursday blasting the San Antonio council’s decision as “discriminatory” based on the company’s religious beliefs and suggested the move violated both the U.S. Constitution and Texas law. He ordered his office to “open an investigation into whether the city’s action violates state law,” and asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to open an investigation of her own into possible violations of federal law.
“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,” Paxton claimed.
He tweeted out a virtual ad for the company, posting an image of the chain’s waffle fries and the words “come and take it,” a reference to Texas pride and independence.
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 tolerance. It’s discriminatory, and not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law. pic.twitter.com/iOk7G9Eltv
— Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) March 28, 2019
On his campaign website, Paxton rails against the sort of federal interference that he asked Chao to initiate this week. “The states were designed to be the laboratories of democracy, not entities to be wholly ruled by the federal government,” he writes. “In a day and age where state sovereignty is perpetually under attack from the radical Left, Attorneys General are on the front lines battling for states’ freedoms. As your Attorney General, I guarantee that I am fighting every day to preserve the integrity and purpose of the Tenth Amendment.”
Paxton has made opposition to LGBTQ rights a hallmark of his political career.
In 2015, he filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Obama administration from granting Family and Medical Leave Act protections to same-sex couples and their families. When the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, Paxton decried it as a “lawless” decision and encouraged state workers with religious objections to defy the ruling.
In December 2017, he also cheered the Supreme Court’s determination that Houston’s decision to honor same-sex marriages prior to the Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling was illegal. “We’re pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the Texas Supreme Court ruling that the right to a marriage license does not entitle same-sex couples to employee benefits at the expense of Texas taxpayers,” he said.
Additionally, Paxton not only fought against the Obama administration’s protections for transgender kids in public schools, but has actively urged Texas schools and the Target Corporation to adopt anti-trans policies.
Paxton was not the only Texas conservative to object to San Antonio’s decision. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has long worked to foil LGBTQ rights, tweeted last week that “the citizens of beautiful San Antonio deserve more delicious sandwiches, and fewer rabid attacks against companies because of their charitable giving to the community.”
The state’s anti-LGBTQ Gov. Greg Abbott (R) also tweeted on Thursday that the “ban has the stench of religious discrimination against Chick-fil-A.”
Chick-fil-A is one of the only remaining national companies that has not adopted an employment non-discrimination policy for its employees that includes sexual orientation or gender identity.