Creating a Chick-fil-A flap with same-sex kiss-in

Aug 4 2012 - 12:17am

Images

Wanda Flory (center), of Swanton, Ohio, watches with two married friends who declined to give their names as Thea Grabiec (right) kisses Sarah Shovan on Friday at the Westfield Franklin Park Mall in Toledo, Ohio. Graviec and Shovan were participating in “National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A,” a protest staged in response to “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Wednesday. Flory had waited in line for three hours Wednesday to purchase Chick-fil-A in solidarity with the President Dan Cathy’s recent comment that his company is supportive of “the biblical definition of the family unit.”  (KATIE RAUSCH/The Associated Press)
Wanda Flory (center), of Swanton, Ohio, watches with two married friends who declined to give their names as Thea Grabiec (right) kisses Sarah Shovan on Friday at the Westfield Franklin Park Mall in Toledo, Ohio. Graviec and Shovan were participating in “National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A,” a protest staged in response to “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Wednesday. Flory had waited in line for three hours Wednesday to purchase Chick-fil-A in solidarity with the President Dan Cathy’s recent comment that his company is supportive of “the biblical definition of the family unit.”  (KATIE RAUSCH/The Associated Press)

ATLANTA -- When President Barack Obama said same-sex couples should have the right to marry, it was national news for a few days before the presidential campaign and the country went back to business as usual.

Yet weeks after a fast-food executive doubled down on his opposition to gay marriage, debate rages on about equality, religious values and free speech.

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on Wednesday, with supporters flooding the chain's franchises around the country, was countered with "kiss-ins" by same-sex couples at assorted locations Friday, long after Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's initial comments to a religious publication touched off the clash.

That's an unusual amount of staying power for what initially looked like just another skirmish over a hot-button question. Coursing throughout the conversations on social media, in letters to the editor and in long lines to buy chicken sandwiches is the sense among proud Southerners that the outcry over Cathy's comments smacks of regional stereotyping.

When public officials in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago tell a Southern icon such as Chick-fil-A that it's no longer welcome and that Cathy should keep his opinions to himself, many in the Atlanta-based chain's home region hear more than a little Northern condescension.

"Maybe the reaction is just because we're Southerners," said Rose Mason, who was lunching Friday at a Chick-fil-A in suburban Atlanta. Mason, who says she's Christian, grew up in New York City.

Now, she said, "I deal with my sister telling me we're a little backward. People have this idea that we're just behind on everything. So they view anything we say through that (perception)."

Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist whose family has always been outspoken about its faith, sparked the controversy by telling the Baptist Press that he and his family-owned restaurant chain openly -- and financially -- support groups that advocate for "the biblical definition of a family unit."

He added that the U.S. is "inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.' "

For Marci Alt, organizer of a protest Friday at a Chick-fil-A in the relatively liberal Atlanta suburb of Decatur, it's Cathy's financial backing of conservative groups such as the Family Research Council that takes the conversation beyond merely what he said.

"Dan Cathy has the same First Amendment rights that I do. If he doesn't want to agree with same-sex marriage, I understand that. But when he puts a pen to paper and writes a check to an organization that is about to squash my equal rights, I have a problem with that."

Cathy's comments were in keeping with the tradition established by his father, Truett Cathy, who started the chain in 1967 and never allowed franchises to open on Sundays.

Beyond Friday's organized displays of affection, there were other signs that the furor still had legs.

Police were investigating graffiti on the side of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Torrance, Calif., that read "Tastes like hate" and had a painting of a cow, in reference to the chain's ubiquitous ads featuring cows encouraging people to eat poultry.

In Tucson, Ariz., an executive at a medical manufacturing company lost his job after filming himself verbally attacking a Chick-fil-A employee and posting the video.

For William Klaus, a 26-year-old X-ray technician with traditional views on marriage, the debate starts and ends with Cathy's liberty to voice his beliefs.

"He said what he said. Freedom of speech. Bottom line," Klaus said at a Chick-fil-A in Jackson, Miss. However, that goes for Cathy's critics, too, said Klaus, adding he stopped by the store to pick up good food.

"For someone to blast him for his opinion, so be it -- they have that right."

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