[D]enying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996). It is even clearer that the government may not make decisions about how people will be allowed to use their own property based on the speaker’s past speech.
The government may impose all sorts of conduct requirements on concessionaires, including non-discrimination rules, but it may not penalize a potential concessionaire because of the political expressions or beliefs of its owners or managers. Private individuals and private companies are free to take such concerns into account when deciding where to take their business. Governments may not.
Councilman Lopez may believe there is a “moral issue” here, but as a government official, he needs to pay a bit more attention to the constitutional issue.
(Hat tip: Sonny Bunch)
UPDATE: Hans Bader writes:
The most superficially appealing argument made by commenters to posts similar to yours is that Chick Fil-A’s CEO’s opinions might be a harbinger of illegal discrimination against gay patrons or employees. But the record rebuts and refutes such speculation.If you do Westlaw searches, you will find something very interesting:Chick Fil-A, which operates in many states and cities that have bans on sexual orientation discrimination, has basically no lawsuits against it for such discrimination. Or ANY kind of discrimination.It is rare for a restaurant chain to have as few discrimination claims against it as Chick Fil-A. McDonald’s has wage and hour lawsuits, as well as the occasional sexual harassment lawsuit. Chick Fil-A has virtually none (and that includes franchisees). . . . There is no evidence that Chick-fil-A discriminates against gay patrons, and it has restaurants in many cities than ban anti-gay discrimination.Maybe it treats its employees very well.
To reiterate, it would be one thing for a government official to oppose a Chick-fil-A contract if there were evidence that the chain would not comply with relevant laws, including anti-discrimination laws. But that is not the case here.
UPDATE: See this Forbes article for a counter view on how one might view Chick-fil-A as an employer.