Here’s why rainbow flags are going up at a Chick-fil-A in San Jose

Gay pride flags are waved in front of Chick–fil–A in Hollywood in 2012.
Gay pride flags are waved in front of Chick–fil–A in Hollywood in 2012.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Rainbow flags will be flying around a new Chick-fil-A at the San Jose airport after residents expressed their displeasure with the restaurant’s reported affiliations with anti-gay groups.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously this week to show its support for the LGBTQ community while renewing a contract with Host International Inc. The city has worked with the food corporation to bring in a few new restaurants to the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport — including the Chick-fil-A, which was approved last year, according to city records.

But community members weren’t too happy about the decision to OK the restaurant in the first place. At the city’s latest council meeting, several LGBTQ rights advocates and residents voiced their opposition to the fast-food eatery, which reportedly donates to anti-gay groups.

“I was at the airport on Wednesday, flying out on a business meeting, and my heart just sank when I saw on the construction [site] … ‘Coming soon: Chick-fil-A,’ ” Stanford University politics professor Ken Yeager said. “It really just felt it was a signal of past days for this city.”

Yeager suggested displaying rainbow flags and blue, pink and white transgender flags in support of the LGBTQ community.


Rosemary Barnes, a spokeswoman for the airport, said officials are deciding where to hang the flags. The restaurant, which is still under construction, is scheduled to open in June at Terminal B.

“We’re here to serve our council members, and this is what they requested,” she said of the banners.

LGBTQ advocacy groups have long reported that Chick-fil-A has donated to anti-gay groups. Equality Matters said that in 2010, the restaurant gave $3 million to organizations, including the Family Research Council and Exodus International.

But the restaurant has denied such reports. Last month, Chick-fil-A released a statement about the rumors regarding its charitable donations.

“This continues a long trend in what continues to be a misleading report that is driving an inaccurate narrative about our brand,” the statement said. “To suggest that our efforts in supporting these organizations was focused on suppressing a group of people is misleading and inaccurate.”

Chick-fil-A did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

The company has maintained that its founder, S. Truett Cathy, used biblical principles to guide the business and that those principles are still used today.

In 2012, Chief Executive Dan Cathy told The Times that Chick-fil-A is “very much supportive of the family … the biblical definition of the family unit.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, San Jose council members discussed the possibility of “unraveling” the contract with the restaurant.

“I’m just uncomfortable given the history we now know Chick-fil-A is involved with and the political agenda they contribute to,” said Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco. “Every single dollar that goes into Chick-fil-A for their products fuels an agenda that isn’t friendly to our LGBT community. Frankly, if there’s a way to unravel it, I’d like to figure out a way how to unravel this.”

Ultimately, the council decided to renew the partnership with the chain for two more years.

Twitter: @r_valejandra