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New York Lawmakers Fight to Keep Chick-Fil-A From State Rest Stops

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New York politicians versus Chick-fil-A. New York’s state legislators Harry Bronson, Deborah Glick, and Daniel O’Donnell are trying to block Chick-fil-A restaurants from New York rest stops because they don’t like the values of company executives. In a letter to the New York State Thruway Authority’s executive director, they asked that the Thruway Authority reconsider its decision to allow Chick-fil-A as one of its approved restaurants.

“Chick-fil-A and its founders have a long and controversial history of opposing the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and families,” wrote Bronson, Glick, and O’Donnell in a July 9 letter. As examples of this, they cited 2012 comments made by Chick-fil-A’s CEO in opposition to same-sex marriage and the fact that the company gave money to The Salvation Army.

“As recently as 2017, tax filings showed that the groups supported by Chick-fil-A expanded to include The Salvation Army, which has a public record of the rejection of LGBTQ rights,” the letter states. (The company announced in 2019 that it would no longer give to The Salvation Army.)

Bronson’s office also created a petition for people to pressure the Thruway Authority and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop doing business with Chick-fil-A. And, amazingly, Bronson is portraying this effort to interfere with religious freedom, freedom of association, and free markets as a boon for civil liberties. “Thank you for your support in this endeavor to ensure NYS continues it’s (sic) commitment to civil rights,” he tweeted along with the petition.

It’s yet another stunning example of the nanny state nature, opposition to economic liberty, and disdain for personal choice so frequently on display from New York politicians.

Remember, we’re not talking about some state-subsidized Chick-fil-A restaurants; we’re talking about simply allowing people the option to eat there. If folks oppose Chick-fil-A’s company politics or the way its executives spend money, they’re free to exercise their own freedom of association to avoid eating there and to use their own freedom of speech to encourage others to do the same.

Many have done just that over the years—successfully prompting changes to the company’s charitable donation policies (and showing that free market solutions to encouraging corporate change do work). But Chick-fil-A’s bottom line was never really harmed, suggesting that either these changes were sufficient to appease people, or a significant number of people actually agreed with Chick-fil-A’s original positions, or that most people don’t actually care about the politics of the restaurant making their chicken sandwiches.

The people have spoken, but some New York Democrats want to override that. Instead, Bronson and co. prefer to take the more authoritarian step of using government power to forcibly keep Chick-fil-A restaurants from New York rest stops.

Bronson argued that normal rules of private business and free markets don’t apply here because this situation involves the state government choosing to lease space to Chick-fil-A. “There is a huge difference between Chick-fil-A purchasing a piece of property or leasing a piece of property from another private individual,” he said. “However, when the state is engaged in a contract with an organization that has a history of discrimination, that’s inappropriate.”

But “there are no state taxpayer dollars or toll payer funds supporting the redevelopment of the Thruway’s 27 service areas,” noted the New York State Thruway Authority in a statement. “Every restaurant brand included by Empire State Thruway Partners has a contractual responsibility, and is legally required, under New York State law, including the New York State Human Rights Law and Executive Orders, to adhere to the inclusive and non-discriminatory standards that New York State embraces.”

Chick-fil-A offered this statement of its own:

Chick-fil-A is excited about the partnership and the opportunity to further serve the residents of New York. We want to be clear that Chick-fil-A does not have a political or social agenda, and we welcome everyone in our restaurants. We are proud to be represented by more than 200,000 diverse team members nationwide, and we strive to be a positive influence in our local communities. We do this, in part, by contributing $25,000 to food banks in each community where we open a new restaurant, and donating more than 10 million meals through our Shared Table program.


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