Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed New York state Democrats over their attempt to stop Chick-fil-A from operating in rest stops due to concerns over the company’s religious-based opposition to gay marriage.
“If such a disastrous move ever came about – banning a commercial business due to them expressing their First Amendment rights – it would set a horrible precedent,” the South Carolina Republican posted Tuesday on Facebook. “It would also be ferociously opposed by many Members of Congress, including me.”
Graham’s post came in response to news that Democrat politicians in New York are backing a petition intended to stop Chick-Fil-A, founded by evangelical Christian S. Truett Cathy, from selling food at New York rest stops because of the company’s donations to groups that oppose same-sex marriage.
“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,” Democratic Rochester-area Assemblymember Harry Bronson, who is openly gay, said on Twitter about his plan to stop Chick-Fil-A from popping up along I-90 as part of the Thruway Authority’s $450 million service-state modernization project.
“It’s time the @NYSThruway re-examine this choice,” he added.
Bronson and two other openly gay New York Democrats also sent a letter to Matthew Driscol, executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority, voicing their displeasure with the plan.
The fast food giant responded to criticism of its stores by insisting that they are not attempting to spread a specific political message.
“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.”
In 2019, Chick-fil-A received backlash for donating to two groups that opposed gay marriage. The company announced it would no longer donate to those organizations, choosing instead to donate that money to a “mission of nourishing the potential in every child.”
Graham also suggested in his Facebook post that Bronson’s efforts to stop the Christian-friendly restaurant, which closes its doors on Sundays in order for employees and customers to observe their Christian faith, could potentially result in the withholding of federal funding from New York.
“When federal funds are shared with the states, it never entered my mind to look at the politics of the state on hot-button issues like marriage to determine whether they are eligible to receive federal funds,” Graham wrote. “Such a move by New York against Chick-fil-A would create unnecessary upheaval at a time when the country needs to move forward in respecting sincerely held differences of opinion.”
Despite continued controversy over the religious beliefs of the company’s leadership, Chick-fil-A remains an immensely popular company and was recently rated as the country’s top fast-food chain for the seventh year in a row by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
“Chick-fil-A is a lawful business with a great product,” Graham concluded in his Facebook post. “They should not be punished for their beliefs.”