We’ve an interesting clash of rights here, between gay ones – or to use more modern terminology, LGBTQ and the rest – and those of free speech and free association. Those latter two are rather older of course but we also have some interesting recent law on them, the Citizens United case. What follows is of course not law nor even greatly informed by the details of the law. But it is indeed a broad brush truth about where we are now.
Chik-fil-A is run by fundamentalist conservatives, or as we used to call them Christians. This involves having some distinctly unfashionable to the urban and coastal elites views on such things as, well, actually, all such things as sex outside marriage between just the one man and one woman and once. Married once that is, they’re rather in favour of more than one child. Varied people who own the company have even been known to donate to organisations which propagate these views as has the company. Flyover Country has been known to support the company for doing so, some other places not so much.
It’s not often that local government gets to decide which company can occupy which space. Zoning and planning law does say that they get to decide whether there’s going to be a fast food joint at this intersection or not, but not which. Except, sometimes they do, airports being an obvious example. For America isn’t as capitalist as many think and it often is local government which owns the airports and they get to decide who can sign a lease.
Unfashionable views among the company’s owners/founders? No lease at the airport for you!
The Texas attorney general announced he will open an investigation into whether San Antonio’s mayor and city council violated state law by excluding Chick-fil-A from the city’s airport. “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,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said. The city council voted 6-4 to block Chick-fil-A from opening a store at the San Antonio International Airport after details on the company’s political and charitable donations to anti-LGBT groups came to light.
Well, can they do that? Sure, obviously they can for they have, but can they make it stick? This will be more than just the one time too:
One week after getting banned at a Texas airport, Chick-fil-A has now been blocked from placing its chicken restaurant in the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. While the fast-food chicken restaurant had already been approved by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) and hospitality management company Delaware North, a local assemblyman did his part to stop any future plans. New York Assemblyman Sean Ryan slammed the NFTA on Twitter, saying it was “disappointing” the airport would allow a restaurant that “has a long history of supporting and funding anti-LGBTQ organizations.”
Every progressive with a name to make will now be trying to ban Chik-fil-A from opening a restaurant where progressives with a name to make can influence such. On the point at issue I’m as Voltaire didn’t say – it was a line given to his character in a play – I might disagree with what you say but I’ll defend your right to say it. So, the owners of Chik-fil-A can hold any view they damn well wish and do as they like to propagate such.
But does the law agree? Obviously, as individuals, yes, and people can’t then discriminate against them for said views. Well, obviously they can, they can oppose them, decide they’d prefer not to associate and all that but government and business and all that can’t in the same manner.
Which leads to, well, does the business have those same rights? Which is where we meet the Citizens United case. A company is just a group of people. So, if individuals have certain rights, do groups of people called companies also have them? Sometimes the answer will be no, sometimes yes. The CU case was, well, do they have those rights to free and political speech that individuals do? Largely, the answer was yes, thus corporates can make political donations of certain kinds.
Now do you get it? The local government banning Chik-fil-A because of the LGBTQ issue is banning over those rights to political speech which the Supremes have agreed companies have for, as above, a company is just a group of people.
Yes, obviously, IANAL and all that. But my thinking would be that post-Citizens the answer is clear. Chik-fil-A can advocate as it likes and government can’t discriminate for it doing so. This will, of course, enrage everyone to the left of you and me – when we include me that’s a lot of people – but then they’ve always hated the Citizen’s United decision anyway.