Multiple New York Democrats are trying to stop plans to open Chick-fil-A restaurants at rest stops throughout the state because they say the restaurant chain has donated to discriminatory and anti-LGBT groups in the past.
Harry Bronson, Deborah Glick, and Daniel O’Donnell sent the letter calling on the New York Thruway Authority’s Executive Director Matthew Driscoll to “reexamine” a list of approved concessions for the massive project saying, “Chick-fil-A and its founders have a long and controversial history of opposing the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and families,” the Assembly members said in their July 9 letter, saying the company supported “organizations hostile to LGBTQ+ rights.”
The Thruway Authority responded in a separate letter saying the Board of Directors and staff “support an inclusive environment” that treats travelers through its system “with dignity and respect.”
“Our private partner in the Service Area redevelopment project, Empire State Thruway Partners, explored a selection of restaurants and finalized agreements with specific brands to operate at the redeveloped service areas to enhance and improve the travel experience for our customers,” the Thruway Authority said.
“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,” it added.
Bronson said that’s not good enough.
“Whether or not contractually and legally they’re obligated to not discriminate, the issue here is we should not be sending a message to our gay community that we’re willing to do business with an organization that is willing to not recognize their human rights,” the Rochester assemblyman said.
Bronson said he had not yet received a response from the Driscoll as of Monday afternoon.
The Thruway Authority is set to close 10 of its service areas to begin redevelopment on July 29, including the service areas in Clarence and Pembroke. It has not yet been revealed which food concepts would be included in each service area.
Other concepts include Shake Shack, Panera, Popeyes, Burger King, Panda Express, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Chick-fil-A, meanwhile, says it is excited about the partnership and the chance to serve people in New York State.
“We want to be clear that Chick-fil-A does not have a political or social agenda, and we welcome everyone in our restaurants,” the company said in a statement. “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.”
In November 2019, the Chick-fil-A Foundation announced it would begin to focus its charitable efforts on education, homelessness, and hunger in 2020. Bronson said he would like to hear the company offer a statement in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
After years of millions in donations to organizations hostile to LGBTQ+ rights, the decision to approve @ChickfilA as an approved concession at our rest stops is concerning to say the least.— Harry B. Bronson (@HarryBBronson) July 10, 2021
It’s time the @NYSThruway re-examine this choice. pic.twitter.com/8sOkNRjQop
After an overwhelming response from our community, my office created a petition allies can use to sign-on to our letter to @NYSThruway and @NYGovCuomo.— Harry B. Bronson (@HarryBBronson) July 11, 2021
Thank you for your support in this endeavor to ensure NYS continues it’s commitment to civil rights.https://t.co/4qKLtvwvPB