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Texas sues city over internal documents related to Chick-fil-A ban

Texas sues city over internal documents related to Chick-fil-A ban

A franchise sign is seen above a Chick-fil-A freestanding restaurant after its grand opening in Midtown, New York, October 3, 2015. |

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against San Antonio to make them comply with an investigation into whether the city’s recent decision to ban Chick-fil-A from an airport constituted religious bigotry.

Submitted Monday in the District Court for Travis County, the lawsuit accuses the city of withholding documents such as emails from the Attorney General’s investigation, in violation of the Texas Public Information Act.

“The public has an interest in the information,” the lawsuit states. “The information sought by the Attorney General relates to the City of San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from a public contract because of the sincerely held religious beliefs of its owners, and despite the fact that Chick-fil-A has a long and undisputed track record of serving its customers without bias or discrimination.”

“If the City prevails here, then the public would be precluded from ever requesting any information whenever a government actor says that there may be a legal dispute at some point. This would, in practice, effectively eliminate the Public Information Act by creating an unlimited exception.”

Ken Paxton

In a statement released Monday, Paxton argued that San Antonio’s refusal to comply with his Public Information Act request “only highlights its fear about allowing any sunshine on the religious bigotry that animated its decision.”

San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia denounced Paxton’s overall investigation in a statement published by the Austin American-Statesman on Monday.

“It is clear from the strident comments in his press release that any ‘investigation’ would be a pretense to justify his own conclusions,” stated Segovia.

In March, the San Antonio City Council voted 6-4 to remove Chick-fil-A from a concession food agreement with San Antonio International Airport over the chicken sandwich chain’s ties to socially conservative Christian nonprofits and its owner’s opposition to gay marriage.

Councilman Roberto Treviño, who championed the removal of Chick-fil-A from the agreement, celebrated the vote result as an example of San Antonio becoming “a champion of equality and inclusion.”

“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,” said Treviño, as reported by NBC News.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Greg Brockhouse penned an open letter to Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy, apologizing for the decision.

“The recent actions of our City Council do not reflect the overwhelming belief in our City that you are a valued business and community partner,” wrote Brockhouse.

“In spite of the appearance of this decision, San Antonio is a welcoming City that values diversity, faith and inclusivity.”

In response to the outcry, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced in late March that he was investigating if the city’s decision violated the First Amendment.

“The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken. Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport,” wrote Paxton in an official letter to San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

“I have directed my office to open an investigation into whether the City’s action violates state law. 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." 

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it was launching its own investigation into whether Chick-fil-A was unlawfully discriminated against “due to the expression of the owner’s religious beliefs.”  

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