Last year the San Jose City Council voted to allow a Chik-fil-A restaurant at San Jose International Airport despite the company’s infamous anti-LGBTQ politics. Now, after public outcry, councilmembers are searching for ways to assure fliers that the city remains a gay-friendly town.
On Tuesday the San Jose City Council voted to surround the airport restaurant with rainbow and transgender flags.
The idea was suggested by Santa Clara County supervisor Ken Yeager “as a way to counter the bigotry of Chick-fil-A and to let people know that even though there’s that restaurant there, the city is showing its support for the LGBTQ community,” according to San Francisco Business Times.
In March 2018, the city approved a contract that brings a variety of new chain eateries into empty airport spaces, including a Shake Shack, Great American Eagle, and Trader Vic’s.
The Chick-fil-A location, which is now under construction and set for completion in May, “slipped under everybody’s radar” in the larger package deal, as councilperson Magdalena Carrasco put it Tuesday.
The city was debating a minor two-year extension of the deal at this week’s meeting, the sort of vote that’s routine and usually brooks little debate, but in this case turned into a trial of conscience as San Jose lawmakers pondered how they got into the situation.
Vox reports that Chik-fil-A donated $1.8 million to anti-LGBTQ groups in 2018, including Paul Anderson Youth Home, a group that preaches that same-sex marriage is “rage against Jesus Christ.”
Six LGBTQ advocacy groups cosigned a letter to the city ahead of this week’s hearing decrying the company’s incoming presence on city property:
To millions of visitors every year, Norman Y. Mineta International Airport is their front door to this City, and we want all of them to feel welcome. Chick-fil-A does not represent San Jose’s values. It is not worthy of being the company that visitors first see, and it does not make for a more inclusive environment.
Additionally, San Jose’s international airport has received billions of dollars of taxpayer funded investments. Our city employees spend time and therefore money maintaining its infrastructure.
During Tuesday’s meeting, city councilperson Devora Davis advised against the flags on the grounds that “if we have them next to Chick-fil-A, it might be confusing—people might think Chick-fil-A is supporting and go to that restaurant.”
Davis recommended displaying the flags further away at the airport.
Councilmember Raul Peralez also wanted to add a provision to Tuesday’s vote that the city would only extend airport contracts for companies that are open seven days a week. Chick-fil-A locations are always closed on Sundays.
San Jose politicos repeatedly cringed at Tuesday’s hearing and expressed regret that the city had allowed the anti-gay airport eatery in the first place.
“It’s a shame we’re caught in this place today,” said Councilmember Sylvia Arenas, adding, “We can’t say ten years from now that something slipped through the cracks once again, it just can’t happen.”
The council voted unanimously in favor of the contract extension, to which the city added measures about the Pride flags.