As part of a probe into religious discrimination, the Texas attorney general is suing San Antonio to get the city to turn over records about its decision not to give Chick-fil-A an airport concession contract.
Ken Paxton filed the office’s petition earlier this month in Travis County District Court to gain access to city documents that it says are public records under the state’s Public Information Act.
Chick-fil-A’s operators, who are well-known for their Christian values and belief in traditional marriage, close their fast-food restaurant locations on Sundays, the attorney general noted in a news release.
San Antonio City Council members revealed their discriminatory motives in rejecting Chick-fil-A through their public statements, such as characterizations of the restaurant chain as out of step with “our core values as a city,” according to the Attorney General’s Office.
San Antonio city officials are seeking to withhold some of the records requested by the Attorney General’s Office using exceptions to disclosure outlined in the Public Information Act.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg has defended the city’s 6-4 vote against Chick-fil-A, contending that many people are not comfortable with the restaurant chain and that its policy of closing on Sundays would be problematic for San Antonio International Airport because that’s when 15 percent of its sales take place.
Councilman Roberto Trevino also put out a statement in March defending the council’s vote.
“With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion,” Trevino said. “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.”
A Chick-fil-A statement to KTSA News in San Antonio said the council vote was based on misconceptions about the company.
“We have welcomed everyone in San Antonio into our 32 local stores for more than 40 years,” the statement said. “... Chick-fil-A embraces all people, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The city is illegally attempting to hide documents, Paxton said, adding that San Antonio’s position shows that officials are trying to conceal the religious bias behind the council’s vote.
“We’ve simply opened an investigation using the Public Information Act,” he said in a prepared statement. “If a mere investigation is enough to excuse the city of San Antonio from its obligation to be transparent with the people of Texas, then the Public Information Act is a dead letter.”
The attorney general also wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao earlier this year urging the department to open a probe into San Antonio’s actions as a violation of federal law due to regulations banning discrimination by jurisdictions that receive federal grants.
Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed signed legislation that provides religious protections to companies like Chick-fil-A.
The new law, known as the "Save Chick-fil-A" measure, bans government bodies from taking "adverse action" against any individuals or businesses based on membership, support or donations to religious groups.