Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused San Antonio of “religious bigotry” against Chick-fil-A, filing a lawsuit Monday demanding the city turn over documents about its decision to refuse to allow the popular fast-food restaurant a spot at the city-run airport.
Mr. Paxton and others contend city lawmakers discriminated against the chicken chain because of the religious beliefs of the owner, a devout Christian whose franchises are not open on Sundays and who has been public in his opposition to same-sex marriage.
The city council approved a new airport concessions contract in March, with the stipulation that Chick-fil-A not be allowed a spot. One council member called the corporation a “symbol of hate.”
Mr. Paxton says San Antonio is stonewalling demands for information that would shed light on the council’s decision to bar the restaurant from a federally funded public spot.
He said the city’s refusal to turn over the documents because it expects to be sued over its decision doesn’t hold water.
“The city’s extreme position only highlights its fear about allowing any sunshine on the religious bigotry that animated its decision,” the attorney general said in announcing the lawsuit.
The city manager’s office disputed Mr. Paxton’s version and said it has complied with the law, but won’t jump through hoops for a politically motivated action.
San Antonio says it has identified 250 pages of documents and submitted them to the attorney general’s Open Records Division for a ruling on whether they must be released in light of announced investigations by Mr. Paxton and others.
City Attorney Andy Segovia said Mr. Paxton is trying to short-circuit a decision by his own office.
Mr. Segovia also scored Mr. Paxton for notifying the press of the lawsuit before the city, and said the attorney general’s comments undercut his ability to conduct a fair investigation.
The city sought to shield the documents roughly two weeks after Mr. Paxton made his public records request on April 11, according to the lawsuit.
“That’s a bit of circular reasoning right there because the documents are the investigation, so to speak,” said Jonathan Saenz, the president of Texas Values, a conservative group. “That looks like delay tactics right there because everybody in San Antonio has heard about this and a lot of people are concluding they just don’t want to be accountable.”
As further evidence of that, Mr. Saenz pointed to the April city council meeting, which was packed with people opposed to the Chick-fil-A ban and at which Mayor Ron Nirenberg and council members refused to allow public comment.
Mr. Nirenberg, who backs the restaurant ban, was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but the Chick-fil-A action has become a major issue in his reelection campaign, which is headed to a runoff Saturday.
His challenger, conservative City Council Member Greg Brockhouse, has reminded voters of both the decision and Mr. Nirenberg’s deciding vote against undoing the decision later.
The city’s vote also has sparked an investigation by the Federal Aviation Authority.
Last month, the Texas legislature passed a law that would prohibit cities from taking “adverse action” against parties because of contributions to religious organizations, a measure Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will sign.
“San Antonio’s city hall has a history now of bucking anything that they think goes against the progressive agenda they have for the city,” said Marc Rylander, the director of communications for Mr. Paxton. “And we’re not going to just sit back and let them get away with it when we think based on their statements this has been a clear violation of religious liberty.”
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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