A game of chicken is underway between a pair of airports and the FAA.
The Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) and the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) are being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration for alleged religious discrimination after the transport hubs banned Chick-fil-A for the chain’s alleged association with anti-LGBTQ sentiments and actions.
“Federal requirements prohibit airport operators from excluding persons on the basis of religious creed from participating in airport activities that receive or benefit from FAA grant funding,” an FAA statement read.
“We have no social or political stance,” Chick-fil-A said in a statement released to CNN, adding that the company is not participating in the investigation. “We welcome and embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Delaware North, a private firm responsible for operating BUF’s restaurants, had the final say, New York Assemblyman Sean Ryan explained to a local CNN affiliate in April.
“New York State … has strict rules about not engaging in the practices of discrimination against the LGBT community,” Ryan said.
In a statement, Delaware North official Kevin Kelly called the move “purely a business decision.”
BUF’s decision came on the heels of SAT’s own ban against the restaurant in March, with the latter referring to the company’s alleged “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.” SAT’s decision followed a close vote by the San Antonio City Council (6-4).
“Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport,” Councilman Roberto Treviño said in a subsequent statement.
The state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton believed the decision to be “discriminatory” and pledged to investigate the potential violation of religious liberty.
The day before the SAT decision, ThinkProgress reported that Chick-fil-A had donated over $1.8 million in 2017 to three groups with histories of discriminatory practices, including one that banned employees for “homosexual acts” and enforced a “sexual purity” policy.
Chick-fil-A has been a subject of controversy regarding LGBTQ issues since at least January 2011, following reports that the company was co-sponsoring a marriage conference with the Pennsylvania Family Institute. PFI was described by The New York Times as “one of that state’s most outspoken groups against homosexuality.”
Chick-fil-A’s CEO, president, and heir, Dan Cathy, made headlines in 2012 when he expressed the company’s support of “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Speaking on The Ken Coleman Show, Cathy then stated his belief that, “We are inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage.'”
Neither Chick-fil-A nor the airports immediately responded to requests for comment.
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