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Helene Schneider: Chick-fil-A Project Review Not About Gay Marriage

Santa Barbara board should approve or deny the building application on its merits alone, not on personal, religious or political beliefs

Mayor Helene Schneider
Mayor Helene Schneider

As mayor of Santa Barbara and as a founding member of the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry Coalition, I disagree with the Chick-fil-A president’s stance against marriage equality, as I have always been a proponent for the full equality of the residents I represent. I will not be dining at a Chick-fil-A in Santa Barbara or anywhere else.

I understand the frustration members of the Architectural Board of Review might have felt this week when they had to review a project application from Chick-fil-A.

As the only county in Central and Southern California to defeat Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in the state, Santa Barbara as a community has consistently supported the freedom to marry. The city’s approval process about Chick-fil-A’s building application, however, is not about gay marriage; it’s about the design of a building, and the approval of the project should be based on those merits alone.

It would be appropriate for ABR members to oppose this project if they thought the building and patio seating did not fit within the city’s design guidelines. That is their role, regardless of who the applicant is. There are legitimate reasons to abstain from voting if a member feels like there is a conflict of interest to the point where they could not make an objective decision; however, to not support a project solely based on personal beliefs would be inappropriate as an ABR member.

I am pleased and encouraged that more and more states are legalizing gay marriage and hope one day California will do the same. If you care about gay marriage rights, then I encourage you to spend your energy in ways that will create better awareness and stronger advocacy on this important civil rights issue. Donate to or volunteer at a gay-rights organization. Make your voice heard at the polls.

Certainly, if a local gay-rights organization, a church or synagogue, a reproductive health care facility or any organization needed to apply to the city for design review, I would hope that the project would approved or denied not based not on personal, religious or political beliefs but on the merits of the application.

Helene Schneider is the mayor of Santa Barbara.

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