New York bill would bar Chick-fil-A from major highway over Sunday closures

chick-fil-a Credit: Elliott Cowand Jr/Shutterstock

A proposed bill in New York state would result in Chick-fil-A being forced to leave a major highway system unless it opened on Sundays, a rule that would run afoul of the chain’s decades-old policy of closing on the Christian Sabbath.

The bill, listed on the state Legislature’s website last week, dictates that “any contracts entered into by the New York State Thruway Authority for the operation of food services at public transportation facilities” shall require that those services “be provided every day of the week.”

The Thruway is a hundreds-of-miles-long network of state highways that run from New York City to the Pennsylvania border. It has existed in New York since the mid-1950s. 

A memo accompanying the bill says that “while there is nothing objectionable about a fast food restaurant closing on a particular day of the week, service areas dedicated to travelers is an inappropriate location for such a restaurant.” The memo specifically references Chick-fil-A.

“Publicly owned service areas should use their space to maximally benefit the public. Allowing for retail space to go unused one-seventh of the week or more is a disservice and unnecessary inconvenience to travelers who rely on these service areas,” the memo says.

The measure comes a few years after three state legislators sent a letter to the executive director of the state Thruway Authority asking him to “reexamine” the authority’s approval of Chick-fil-A to open locations along the highway system, citing the chain leadership’s public stance against same-sex marriage. 

CNA reached out to the bill’s chief sponsor, state Assemblyman Tony Simone, for comment. A spokeswoman for Simone pointed CNA to the memo for the bill. 

Chick-fil-A did not respond to a request for comment.

“Chick-fil-A has had a terrible record on LGBT rights. I’m not going to not say that clearly,” Simone told the New York Post last week. Simone identifies as gay. 

“To serve New Yorkers and travelers, things should be open seven days a week, including Chick-fil-A, and if they can’t they shouldn’t be in our rest stops,” Simone said. “There should be options for people to eat and drink and not just one spot.” 

“It simply makes no sense for any provider of food services in these busy travel plazas to be closed on Sundays,” the Democrat added. “They can just simply change their policy and open up on Sundays.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors is Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, who has a record of supporting LGBT legislation. Kelles did not respond to CNA’s request for comment Monday.

Chick-fil-A currently has nine locations on the Thruway, according to the chain’s website. There are more than 50 locations throughout the state.  

Chick-fil-A has for several years been the target of LGBT activists for its leadership’s Christian stance on marriage. 

In 2012, then-CEO Dan Cathy said in a radio interview: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’”

“I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about,” he said at the time.

Following his comments, there were calls for protest against the chain by some, while others such as former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee called for visiting the restaurant more often, with Huckabee going so far as to dub Aug. 1 of that year “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

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In 2019, Chick-fil-A seemed to distance itself from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, both organizations with biblical views of marriage, after sustained pressure from LGBT activists.

Cathy’s son Andrew Cathy is now the current CEO.

Chick-fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy — himself a Christian — decided in 1946 that the restaurant would close on Sundays so employees could honor the Sabbath if they chose. The chain has kept the practice to the present day. 

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