The Texas State Supreme Court has found that conservative activists failed to present evidence in their lawsuit that the City of San Antonio violated the state’s “Save Chick-fil-A” law.
In an opinion issued Friday, the court sent the lawsuit back to a trial court, where city officials hope it will be dismissed.
“The Texas Supreme Court essentially agreed with the City’s legal arguments but sent the matter back to the trial court for further action on jurisdictional and standing issues,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a prepared statement. “We still expect to resolve this matter fairly quickly.”
But the San Antonio Family Association, whose board member Patrick Von Dohlen is part of the group of area religious and political activists that brought the lawsuit, also claimed victory on Friday and applauded the opportunity to go to trial.
“Now we will re-plead with facts and merits of the case showing adverse action after the effective date of the enactment, and we will win in the name of business owner conscience rights and religious liberty for all,” the group said in a news release.
The law was the Republican Legislature’s response to City Council’s 2019 decision to remove Chick-fil-A from an airport concession contract. Some council members cited the company’s history of anti-LGBTQ actions, others said the move was based on business considerations, such as the fact that the restaurant chain is not open on Sundays.
The law, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed less than four months after the City Council action, prohibits a governmental entity from taking any adverse action against any person based wholly or partly on the person’s membership in, affiliation with, or support of a religious organization.
A group of five area religious and political activists sued the city in September 2019 saying it violated the new law. In the suit, the plaintiffs allege that the city decided against putting the fast-food restaurant in the San Antonio International Airport because of its donations to Christian organizations.
But the activists didn’t point to any specific, adverse action the city took after the law took effect. Council’s vote on the airport contract took place six months earlier and the law cannot be applied retroactively, the justices said.
In 2020, the city reached an agreement with federal officials to offer Chick-fil-A a lease at the airport, but the restaurant chain never took the city up on the offer.
Instead, Whataburger has plans to open up shop in that spot.