Leaders of San Jose’s LGTBQ community went to City Hall on Tuesday to register a protest against a Chick-fil-A under construction at Mineta San Jose International Airport — a restaurant that’s scheduled to open in just a month.

Allowing a company whose owners support anti-gay causes will send the wrong message — a discriminatory one — to travelers visiting Silicon Valley, speakers said at a rally before heading inside to speak before the San Jose City Council.

“This is public space. We know that this is a strong and inclusive community. We need to make sure that businesses there respect these values,” said Paul Escobar, president of BAYMEC (Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee), a non-partisan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) political action group.

According to Escobar, Chick-fil-A’s philanthropic arm continues to offer financial support to groups that actively oppose the rights of the LGBTQ community.

Airport officials told the City Council the eatery is already slated to open in 35 days. More than a year ago, in early March 2018, the council approved a new contract with the HMS Host concessionaire and the airport publicly announced the planned additions: Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, Great American Bagel, Trader Vic’s and a brewpub.

“This kind of slipped under everybody’s radar,” Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco said.

Mayor Sam Liccardo offered something of an apology, telling residents who spoke against the restaurant’s presence at the airport that while the city cannot and should not allow only establishments it agrees with politically, he “simply didn’t think enough” when the contract was initially approved.

Former county Supervisor Ken Yeager, the area’s first openly gay elected official and now head of the BAYMEC foundation, said he would like to see rainbow and transgender flags posted nearby “as a counter-signal to the discrimination supported by Chick-fil-A.”

That way, he said, arriving passengers will be assured that San Jose welcomes all. “They’ll say, ‘OK, San Jose is an inclusive city.'”

Ultimately, the council voted Tuesday to withhold a proposed two-year contract extension from 2026 to 2028 for businesses that don’t operate seven days a week, which would include Chick-fil-A because it closes on Sundays. It also endorsed Yeager’s idea, voting to place flags at the airport.

Councilman Raul Peralez liked that idea, saying he wants to see flags out front and LGBT employees hired so it’s the “gayest Chick-fil-A in the country.”

For Councilwoman Pam Foley, the issue is an emotional one. She revealed at the City Council meeting that her brother was gay and died of AIDS more than 20 years ago.

“When I hear of injustices related specifically to the LGBT community,” Foley said, “I take it really personally.”


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