06 August 2012
On Aug. 3, gay activists plan to occupy the tables and booths at their local Chick-fil-A restaurants and stage a "kiss in" to protest the company's support for traditional marriage. Organizers announced the event earlier this week in retaliation for comments made by Chick-fil-A's President Dan Cathy in an interview with The Baptist Press, expressing his personal support for biblically-based marriage and family values.
"As an organization, we can operate on biblical principles," Cathy said. "So that's what we claim to be. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
Cathy's detractors say his words are hateful to the gay community. They have asked their supporters to take a stand against Cathy and the Chick-fil-A corporation by boycotting the restaurants, staging protests, and refusing to partner with Chick-fil-A for business and charitable ventures. Cathy's supporters have responded with plans for counter protests, rallies and pledges to continue patronizing one of the nation's most profitable fast-food chains.
"Chick-fil-A serves each customer with excellence, and treats everyone like a neighbor," said evangelist Billy Graham in a statement issued Thursday. "I appreciate the Cathy family's support for God's definition of marriage."
Graham also thanked former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for organizing a Chick-fil-A appreciation day on August 1--two days before the planned "kiss in." Huckabee says he is outraged by the "vitriolic assaults" made on Chick-fil-A. He has asked fellow supporters to join him in encouraging a company that expresses Christian values.
"There's no need for anyone to be angry or engage in verbal battle," he said. "Simply affirm appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up Wednesday or by participating online--tweeting your support or sending a message on Facebook."
Huckabee created a Facebook event for his appreciation day, and more than 1 million people shared it with their friends. More than 100,000 people posted their intention to attend the event before Facebook deleted it. The company later claimed it removed the event by accident, after a reviewer mistakenly flagged it as spam. The company reposted the event 13 hours later, with an apology.
"Chick-fil-A appreciation day" now has more than 200,000 respondents claiming plans to attend, much larger then the "kiss-in," which currently has only a little more than 6,000 supporters planning to attend.
Despite their smaller numbers, the gay-rights activists have promised a much louder protest. But the members who started the "kiss-in" group on Facebook, insist that their event is not meant to rival Huckabee's event. They say they want to celebrate "love, equality, and the real definition of family."
The protest over Chick-fil-A's values started several years ago. Pro-gay advocates have boycotted the restaurants in several locations, including on college campuses. Some schools, like Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., have refused to let the company open an on-campus franchise or lobbied for the removal of existing ones.
This week, mayors in Boston and Chicago vowed to stop Chick-fil-A from opening franchises in their cities. They say that the company is not welcome until it changes its stance on gay marriage. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino even wrote Cathy a letter voicing his anger at the company's "prejudice."
"I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston," Menino said. "There is no place for discrimination on Boston's Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it."
A few days later, Menino admitted he took his comments a bit too far. He said he would prefer not to have a Chick-fil-A in his city but would not actively oppose it.
Cathy's comments also have cost the company its relationship with a major toy supplier. Lisa Henson, CEO of the Henson Company, producers of The Muppets, released a statement saying that her company will no longer allow Chick-fil-A to include Muppets toys in its kids meals. The Henson company is known to celebrate "diversity and inclusiveness" and will not continue to partner with Chick-fil-A at present or in the future, Henson said. She also pledged to donate all the money her company made from its partnership with Chick-fil-A to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD).
In past interviews, Chick-fil-A leaders, including Cathy, have said that their corporation strives to serve the community and that they do not discriminate against those with a different point of view.
"While my family and I believe in the biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees," Cathy said last year in an interview with The Atlanta Journal Constitution. "We're not anti-anybody."This article originally appeared at www.worldoncampus.com