A committee of the Denver City Council has stalled what was expected to be routine approval of a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the Denver International Airport after at least four council members expressed disapproval of the company’s alleged opposition to same-sex marriage.
During an Aug. 18 hearing, council member Robin Kniech said she was concerned about a local franchise generating “corporate profits used to fund and fuel discrimination,” The Denver Post reported. Councilman Paul Lopez compared the pro-family stances of some Chick-fil-A leaders to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments about immigration and other issues, calling opposition to the airport restaurant “really, truly a moral issue.”
The council’s Business Development Committee will take up the matter again at its Sept. 1 meeting. At issue is whether to approve a seven-year lease for a Chick-fil-A that would be operated by a 60-40 partnership involving Atlanta-based Concessions International and Denver’s Delarosa Restaurant Concepts. Chick-fil-A would receive seven percent of the restaurant’s profits, according to The Post. If the committee rejects the lease, an individual member could still introduce the matter to the full council.
Delarosa President Mike De La Rosa told the committee all hiring would be conducted based on a nondiscrimination policy protecting individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to The Post.
None of the committee’s 13 members, 10 of whom were present, defended Chick-fil-A, The Post reported.
Denver International Airport’s (DIA) senior vice president of concession Neil Maxfield said a 2013 survey of airport users identified Chick-fil-A as “the second-most sought-after quick service brand at the airport.” DIA has estimated the restaurant would generate $4.1 million in sales its first year, with more than $600,000 paid to the airport in concession fees. Most other fast-food concessions would generate less in seven days than Chick-fil-A is expected to generate in six, according to The Post, a reference to the chain’s policy of closing on Sundays.
Most council opposition focused on now-CEO Dan Cathy’s 2012 support of traditional marriage, with some opposition also targeting “donations made by charitable arms to groups opposing LGBT causes,” The Post reported.
Even the liberal website Mother Jones came to Chick-fil-A’s defense.
“This stuff happened four years ago, and the company halted contributions to anti-gay groups a year later,” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum wrote. “Cathy presumably still doesn’t support gay marriage, but I really don’t think that should be a precondition for winning a bid with a government agency.
“And when several council members go beyond that, raising questions about ‘Chick-fil-A’s religion-influenced operation,’“ Drum continued, “all it does is confirm the worst hysteria from the right wing that merely being Christian is enough to arouse the hatred of the left. That’s just wildly inappropriate.”
Acton Institute commentator Joe Carter wrote, “The behavior of the city council needs to be called out for what it is: anti-religious bigotry. This is unacceptable behavior, for the government officials are misusing their power to impose their views on citizens.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)