In March, the San Antonio (Tex.) City Council voted 6-4 in favor of excluding Chick-fil-A from opening a location in Terminal A of its airport, citing the restaurant’s lengthy history of opposing same-sex marriage and supporting causes with anti-LGBTQ agendas. "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," Councilman Roberto Treviño said in a written statement. “Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.”
That scenario was repeated in Buffalo, New York last week, when Assemblyman Sean Ryan led a successful protest against the plan to put a Chick-fil-A in the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. But despite widespread opposition to a proposed location in the Mineta San Jose International Airport, it looks like visitors to San Jose are going to have the opportunity to buy those chicken sandwiches after all.
On Tuesday, LGTBQ community leaders visited City Hall to register their displeasure about the restaurant, which is scheduled to open in mid-June. “This is public space,” Paul Escobar, the president of LGBTQ political action group BAYMEC, told the Mercury News. “We know that this is a strong and inclusive community. We need to make sure that businesses there respect these values.”
Sam Liccardo, the mayor of San Jose, said that although the city shouldn’t have to limit itself to businesses that align with the residents’ political views, he admitted that he “simply didn’t think enough” when the city council approved a contract to bring the chain to the airport. (In addition to Chick-fil-A, the terminal will also be getting Shake Shack, Great American Bagel, Trader Vic’s, and “a concept for craft brews called International Beer Union.”)
City officials have been vocal in their concerns about Chick-fil-A, especially considering its placement in the airport’s busiest terminal. “Since Chick-fil-A has some deeply embedded, anti-LGBTQ values out of step with, and offensive to, many San Joseans, it shouldn’t be allowed to operate in a space run by the City of San Jose,” community leader Alex Shoor wrote, according to San Jose Spotlight. “Moreover, we don’t want LGBTQ visitors who come to our city to feel unwelcome when they first arrive and see a business they may be fully aware opposes their own right to marry.”
On Tuesday, former county supervisor Ken Yeager—who is openly gay—suggested that rainbow and transgender flags should surround the restaurant, “as a counter-signal to the discrimination supported by Chick-fil-A.” Councilman Raul Peralez added that, in addition to the flags, the airport restaurant should also make an effort to hire LGBTQ employees in an attempt to make it the “gayest Chick-fil-A in the country.”
The city council stanned all of that, giving a collective thumbs up to Yeager’s idea. It also voted against a contract extension from 2026 to 2028 for businesses that don’t operate seven days a week—including Chick-fil-A, which notoriously closes on Sundays.
But will rainbow flags make flyers reconsider whether to spend their dollars on those waffle fries? Will members of the LGBTQ community really want to say “my pleasure” on behalf of a business that gives millions of dollars to causes that enthusiastically discriminate against them? And does saying, “HEY IN SEVEN YEARS, WE MIGHT SHUT YOU DOWN” really serve as any kind of real fuck you to this sure-to-be-busy airport location?
In a statement, Chick-fil-A denied being as discriminatory as, uh, pretty much everyone seems to think it is.
“Our licensee partners and local Chick-fil-A representatives are in continued conversations to clarify misperceptions about our company, and we look forward to serving all travelers who pass through the airport," it told the Bay Area Reporter. “Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We want to make it clear that our sole focus is on providing delicious food and welcoming everyone—not being a part of a national political conversation. We do not have a political or social agenda. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand, including members of the LGBTQ community. We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity."
Meanwhile in San Antonio, the City Council is already reconsidering that newly approved amendment that prevents Chick-fil-A from opening in its own airport. ““Every day the Chick-fil-A removal decision is allowed to stand hurts our reputation nationwide as a welcoming and inclusive city. It sends a message we are anti-faith and we cannot stand by without speaking the truth and standing up for our principles,” city councilman Greg Brockhouse said. “The removal of Chick-fil-A has embarrassed San Antonio. It does not reflect who we are as a community. We have a chance to correct this mistake by reinstating Chick-fil-A and sending a message that we are open for all, open for faith and open for business.”
Sounds like it could be time to stock up on rainbow flags, just in case San Antonio needs to have a gay-off with San Jose.