West Virginia University has become the latest battle ground between gay marriage advocates and the Chic-fil-A restaurant chain.
Now two statewide groups have jumped in the fray telling university leaders that if they bow to pressure to kick the restaurant off campus they could face a legal threat
Both the Family Policy Council of West Virginia and Alliance Defending Freedom came to the defense of the restaurant chain on Friday after gay advocacy group Fairness WV urged university president James Clements to boot the restaurant, MetroNews reports.
"The First Amendment protects Chick-fil-A’s right to express its opinion on marriage and other political and social issues and that any retaliation against Chick-fil-A based on its speech is a violation of federal law,” the Alliance's senior counsel, David Cortman, wrote.
In a separate but similar defense letter, Jeremiah Dys, president of the state's Family Policy Council noted, “Were your office to approve the disassociation with a company who serves your students by selling chicken, you would undermine the very important lessons of free speech and tolerance that the university seeks to teach to its student body.”
Before receiving the letters Clements said the university is the franchisee for the restaurant "and all workers are WVU employees, subject to the policies and procedures of this campus.”
But he pointed out that the student body voted to have Chick-fil-A on the Morgantown campus and no decision to remove it would be taken before 2015.
Chick-fil-A has found itself at the center of a national gay marriage storm after president Dan Cathy came out in favor of “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee urged a national day in support of the chain on Wednesday which saw many restaurants flooded with diners. A rival “kiss-in” by gay couples on Friday flopped.
The Democratic mayors of Chicago and Boston both threatened to ban the chain from opening new restaurants in their cities.
Now 16 Republican members of the House of Representatives have joined the fray, signing a letter prepared by Mississippi Republican Rep. Alan Nunnelee signaling their support for the restaurant’s right to free speech.
"We are bewildered by those who would take offense at your values and would block the expansion of your business into their communities," Nunnelee wrote on behalf of the other congressmen. "We welcome Chick-fil-A's investment in our districts."
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