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Trevino defends Chick-fil-A airport decision, District 1 opponents strongly disagree

Chick-fil-A debuts gluten-free buns at its restaurants, like this one in the Richmond, Virginia, metro area. (Photo: KTSA/Dennis Foley)

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — San Antonio city councilman Roberto Trevino defended his push to ban Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport, while three of his opponents, including a prominent figure in the San Antonio LGBT business community, say they are against the council’s move.

In a tense interview Friday with KTSA’s Jack Riccardi, Trevino defended his push to ban the Georgia-based chicken chain from the airport, even stating that the decision is sparking a national conversation on the matter.

“What we’ve done is started a national conversation,” the District 1 councilman said in his interview.  “I’m hearing that there’s a conversation happening now in Buffalo about their airport.”

Trevino said the San Antonio city council has the power to enforce the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to its full potential through the governing body’s ability to negotiate contracts with vendors for publicly-owned facilities.

“This is a seven-year contract in a public facility that we felt was not in line with our core values,” the councilman stated.  “The reality is that we as a city have a nondiscrimination ordinance and how we apply it is really critical.”

Not everyone disagrees with Trevino.

First off, the amended agreement only passed with council with a 6-to-4 vote last Thursday.  Recently, other city council members have been meeting with the faith community to discuss the vote, with city councilman Manny Palaez coming out and saying he regrets voting the way he did.

“It’s important to point out that I have never mentioned religion or Christianity,” Trevino argued when the concept of religious freedom and freedom of choice was brought up in the discussion.

The Archdiocese of San Antonio, however, did chime in on the matter Wednesday by saying elected officials should not restrict the right of people to conduct business.

Three of the eight people looking to replace Trevino on the city council all told Riccardi they disagreed with the actions of the city council.

“I do think they handled it wrong,” District 1 challenger Justin Holley told Riccardi in a separate interview Friday.  “I do not think at all that it is a reflection of the rest of city.”

When Riccardi asked Trevino who he consulted before making this decision, it was not exactly a precise answer.

“This is [based on] conversations I’ve had in my community with several folks who expressed their concerns over this,” the councilman responded.

“So this was anecdotal?” Riccardi interjected.

Trevino never clarified, other than sharing other anecdotes in the interview.

“Last year, we had an amazing turnout for the rainbow crosswalk intersection at Main and Evergreen,” the councilman said of the far less controversial decision.  “It really provided a sense of pride for the entire city.”

Trevino, who is an architect by trade, said his district has been and should continue to be the leader in equity and nondiscrimination — stating he needs to protect the city from the perceived evil-doings of a Georgia-based fast food chicken joint.

“It’s the place where the nondiscrimination ordinance was born and pursued for the entire city and we’re not going to let items like this easily undo those kinds of efforts.”

Chick-fil-A responded last week to questions about the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s donating practices, after they were raised by a news story.

Regarding its donation to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes:

“In 2017, the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated approximately $1.6 million to FCA. These donations were used to fund sports camps and school programs for inner-city youth in various locations across the country. Many of the school partnerships afford students access to nontraditional sporting programs such as soccer and baseball, which are otherwise not provided.”

And why it donates to the Salvation Army:

“Like millions of Americans who drop money into the red kettles every holiday season, the Chick-fil-A Foundation supported the Salvation Army in 2017. Our donation of approximately $150,000 funded several programs, including camps for kids and the Angel Tree program in Atlanta. As a result, 11,000 children in need throughout the Atlanta area received gifts during the holiday season.”

The company also defended its practices in four other cases.

Despite taking pride in the fact other cities like Buffalo — more specifically a state lawmaker from Buffalo seeking to put pressure on a local airport authority — are looking to kick out Chick-fil-A from their airports because of their company owners’ donating practices, Trevino said we should not be looking at what other cities are doing when Riccardi stated other so-called liberal cities of Denver and Houston have welcomed the chain into their airports.

“Well, number 1, I think you’ll hear from San Antonians that we’re San Antonio, we’re not other cities,” Trevino told the talk show host.

As Trevino grew more irritated in the interview, even stating he was under the impression he was going to be talking about some other topics beside an action he championed and had garnered national attention from, Riccardi asked whether he and the city is prepared for any lawsuits that will come their way over this.

“We don’t even know what that lawsuit would be,” the councilman stated, noting the only thought of a possible lawsuit came after Texas attorney general Ken Paxton sent San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg a letter stating he will be investigating the council and asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to do the same.  “I’ve spoken to the city attorney’s office and we don’t know what grounds or basis that would stand on.”

He even refuted claims by others, including fellow council members like Greg Brockhouse, that passing the deal they did breaks what ever possible agreement that had been negotiated by the city with the contractor.

“There is no business loss whatsoever,” Trevino stated.  “The contract stands as presented.  The minimum annual guarantee stands as presented and I think we are all moving forward on this.”

Riccardi then pointed out that clearly no one is, since the council’s decision remains a national talking point more than a week after the vote.

Holley, who happens to be openly gay and active in the San Antonio business community, said it’s not the city’s choice to make whether having Chick-fil-A in the airport is or is not anti-LGBTQ.

“You cannot have inclusion with exclusion and we need to stop the rhetoric when these things come up,” Holley told KTSA’s Trey Ware in an earlier interview Friday.

When talking to Riccardi, he said through his eyes, he is not offended when he sees a Chick-fil-A sign.

“I wouldn’t necessarily eat there, but that’s my choice and I get to pick those choices with my pocketbook.”

That is the same argument the Catholic Church made on the matter.

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