Chick-fil-A supporters turn out for appreciation day
For a day at least, eating at Chick-fil-A was dragged into the nation's culture wars over same-sex marriage.
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — The chicken sandwich became a political statement for a day as supporters of the Chick-fil-A president's stance against gay marriage caused traffic jams at the fast-food chain's restaurants nationwide.
Baking in the Southern California summer heat, lines of Chick-fil-A fans snaked around the eateries and down streets Wednesday as patrons ignored gay-rights advocates armed with "Cluck Off" signs urging them to eat elsewhere.
Similar crowds converged across the country at Chick-fil-A, which has more than 1,600 branches. In Madison, Ala., police were called to maintain order. Some customers waited outside Chick-fil-A restaurants carrying 8-foot crosses or dressed as Superman, according to users on Twitter.
Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum tweeted about his Chick-fil-A lunch. "OK leftists go crazy," he wrote.
The crowds were responding to a call from another former presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, who had dubbed Aug. 1 "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" after the chain's president, Dan Cathy, publicly spoke out against same-sex unions two weeks ago.
Cathy's comments and revelations that the chain has donated millions of dollars to anti-gay-marriage groups have sparked a furor from several big-city mayors, Muppets maker Jim Henson Co. and thousands of consumers who have pledged to boycott the chain.
Rival-burger chain Wendy's ordered a North Carolina franchisee to take down signs he had posted at dozens of locations that read: "We Stand With Chick-fil-A." In a statement, Wendy's said it is "proud to serve customers of varied races, backgrounds, cultures and sexual orientation, with different beliefs and values."
More than 600,000 people RSVP'ed on Facebook for Huckabee's appreciation event.
Huckabee, now a radio-show host, posted photos on Facebook of his visit Wednesday to a Chick-fil-A in Destin, Fla.
Not all customers eating at Chick-fil-A sympathize with Cathy's stance against same-sex unions. Many said they were backing the company's right to free speech. Others arrived to voice their displeasure with liberal values in general.
"I'm not against gay rights by any means, but I think this guy is getting a bad rap," Beaumont, Calif., resident Ed Vatter, 57, said over a plate of chicken nuggets and waffle fries at the Chick-fil-A in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
"Plus," he said, "the food's pretty good."
He was one of more than 150 customers who jostled for seats as employees shouted out orders and people waited 30 minutes in lines that stretched out the door at lunch time.
Chick-fil-A, a privately held company based in Atlanta, refused to comment on the effect of the appreciation day on its sales.
Gay-rights sympathizers said they will gather Friday outside Chick-fil-A locations for National Same-Sex Kiss Day, where they plan to publicly embrace in so-called kiss-ins to draw attention to the company's donations to anti-gay-marriage groups.