After protests from San Jose’s LGBTQ community and their allies, city officials voted unanimously this week to adorn the Chick-fil-A inside the city’s airport with rainbow and transgender pride flags. The move is a symbolic action to support of the city’s LGBTQ community, who protested the fast-casual restaurant over recent donations to anti-LGBT causes ahead of its opening next month.
While there is nothing stopping the Chick-fil-A from opening, the San Jose City Council voted to deny a contract extension to restaurants not open seven days a week. That would include Chick-fil-A, which is closed on Sundays for religious reasons. As a result, the restaurant will only be allowed in the airport until 2026.
“This is public space,” said Paul Escobar, president of BAYMEC (Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee), a non-partisan LGBTQ political action group, said in a news release earlier this week. “We know that this is a strong and inclusive community. We need to make sure that businesses there respect these values.”
The inclusion of rainbow and transgender pride flags outside the Chick-fil-A will make it the “gayest Chick-fil-A in the country,” Councilman Raul Peralez said.
It would also let travelers know the city supports LGBT people, supporters added. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo commended the idea for balancing free speech rights and support for queer and trans people.
“While I fundamentally disagree with the Chick-fil-A owner’s anti-LGBTQ views, we reached a creative agreement that reflects San Jose’s values, but abides by constitutional prohibitions regarding discriminating against a business for their religious or political views,” he told San Jose Inside.
The city voted in March 2018 to approve a contract with airport food service company HMS Host, which then publicly announced it would put a Chick-fil-A inside the airport. At the time, the announcement slipped under the radar of airport and city officials.
“I have to profess a certain amount of apology, I think, to the community because I knew there was something about Chick-fil-A in the past about their support for groups with whom I don’t share the same values,” Liccardo said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “We knew it was there—I knew it was there—I simply didn’t think enough.”
Chick-fil-A made headlines for its opposition to marriage equality back in 2012, which spurred nationwide condemnation and boycotts. And while the company’s leadership has attempted to distance itself from their past anti-LGBTQ remarks, newly released tax filings show Chick-fil-A is still donating to organizations that discriminate against LGBT people. These include the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and the Salvation Army, according to progressive media outlet ThinkProgress.
San Jose’s icy reception of the fast-casual chain follows even more aggressive moves from other cities in recent weeks. Both Buffalo, New York and San Antonio, Texas have banned Chick-fil-A from airports altogether.