Feathers fly over chicken chain's gay rights stance
EVER SINCE Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said he was “guilty as charged” of supporting the biblical definition of marriage, the US fast food company has found itself in the middle of the US’s simmering gay rights debate.
In an interview published on July 2nd, Mr Cathy told the Biblical Recorder, a North Carolina Baptist outlet: “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
The controversy has since played out at store level. On Wednesday, supporters of the company flooded the fast-food chain’s locations for what was dubbed “Chick- fil-A Appreciation Day” by 2008 Republican Party presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. Separately, a small group of protesters gathered outside one Denver location to voice their opposition to the chain.
The company said it had nothing to do with the organisation of the appreciation day efforts and would distance itself from the policy debate on same-sex marriage, while holding to what it described as applied “biblically based principles” to its business management.
Support for the chain was loud and clear, egged on by extreme conservative Tea Party-supporting anti-gay rights voices such as radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Brian Thompson, who manages the Chick-fil-A at the Republic Plaza food court in Denver, said he doubled his sales and had to close early because his staff could not thaw more chicken in time. A location in nearby Thornton had cars wrapped around the restaurant in a near standstill.
“It was a very interesting day and very exciting. I am glad I came to work today,” Mr Thompson said.
The debate between supporters and opponents has centred on issues of gay rights and free speech. Stacy Petty, who asked friends to go with her to her local outlet in Thornton, Colorado, said for her the matter was about freedom of speech. “I am vehemently against Dan Cathy’s stand on gay issues [but] it is equally as important that he is able to practise his religion,” she said.
Louanne Lyons supported the company because of Mr Cathy’s statements and its constitutional right to those statements. “That is our first loyalty in this country, and we need to wake up and not let other people tell us what we can and cannot say,” Ms Lyons said.
Not everyone agreed Mr Cathy’s statements were simply a freedom of speech issue. Chris Gant, who organised a protest against an outlet near him, said he disagreed with the company’s support of anti-gay marriage organisations.
“They’ve donated millions to anti-gay lobbyists who carry out anti-gay agendas, which then use their money to influence policy, which then affects me directly,” Mr Gant said. The demonstrations are far from over. Today, groups opposed to Mr Cathy’s statements plan to hold a “kiss-in” at various Chick-fil-A locations in the US in honour of Same-Sex Kiss Day. – (New York Times/Denver Post)