San Antonio’s airport boycott may have been influenced by a recent Think Progress report criticizing the company’s corporate donations to charitable groups described as “anti-LGBTQ,” including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and—prior to 2017—a program for at-risk young men called the Paul Anderson Youth Homes. What these organizations have in common is adherence to traditional Christian beliefs. The city’s blacklisting of Chick-fil-A seeks to punish the company for espousing mainstream beliefs shared by millions of Americans and an overwhelming majority of San Antonio’s residents, many of them Catholic. Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in the Obergefell case, Texas did not recognize same-sex marriage, so opposition to it was hardly extreme or improper—and in any case, maintaining that opposition does not amount to discrimination against LGBT employees or customers.
The San Antonio city council, as a government entity, cannot selectively punish constitutionally protected speech based on its content. Google fired engineer James Damore for expressing opinions deviating from progressive orthodoxy, and Mozilla sacked its CEO, Brendan Eich, in 2014 for having contributed $1,000 years earlier to California’s initiative in support of traditional marriage. But Google and Mozilla are not subject to the First Amendment, as a city government is. Government contracts cannot be withheld or withdrawn based on potential vendors’ political or religious views. A similar case arose in New York City, where officials unsuccessfully tried to cancel contracts with Donald Trump, whose company manages a municipal golf course and other franchises; the city backed down when the constitutional violation was demonstrated.