July 27th, 2012
06:14 PM ET

How the Chick-fil-A same-sex marriage controversy has evolved

A growing chorus of politicians has joined a nearly two-week uproar and counter-uproar over the marriage views of Chick-fil-A’s president.

At least four Democratic officials in three major northern U.S. cities spoke against the views of Dan Cathy, who recently said his company backs traditional marriage, as opposed to same-sex marriage. Some of those politicos essentially told the Atlanta-based restaurant chain not to try to expand in their cities.

Two former GOP presidential candidates, meanwhile, have encouraged people to show their support for Chick-fil-A by buying food there this coming Wednesday, which one of them has dubbed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

The controversy took flight in mid-July after Cathy gave an interview to the Biblical Recorder, on online journal for Baptists in North Carolina. In the July 2 story - picked up by the Baptist Press on July 16 - Cathy affirmed that his company backs the traditional family unit.

“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” he added.

The fast-food chicken restaurant chain has long been known to espouse Christian values, and does not operate on Sundays so that employees can be free to attend church if they choose.

Proponents of same-sex marriage spread Cathy’s comments, eventually creating a firestorm of criticism on social media, including assertions that his comments and position were bigoted and hateful.

“The Office” star Ed Helms joined in, saying he was no longer a fan of the fast-food giant.

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t like gay people? So lame," he tweeted July 18. "Hate to think what they do to the gay chickens! Lost a loyal fan."

The Jim Henson Co., whose Jim Henson's Creature Shop toys have been served up in Chick-fil-A's meals for kids, announced last week that it would no longer associate itself with the chain.

"The Jim Henson Co. has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over 50 years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors,” the company said on its Facebook page.

Chick-fil-A supporters also chimed in, posting messages of support on its Facebook page.

“Thank you for standing up for what you believe. The truth is not hate. It’s just the truth,” wrote Sharon R. Boyd.

Chick-fil-A said last week, as the controversy was heating up, that it its culture and service tradition “is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

“We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent owner/operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena," said a statement from Don Perry, the company's vice president of corporate public relations, just days before Perry died.

Famed evangelist Billy Graham broke his usual silence on hot-button issues when he backed Chick-fil-A, saying in a statement Thursday that each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God's word.”

“I appreciate the Cathy family's public support for God's definition of marriage," Graham said.

Meanwhile, two high-profile calls to action - one against Chick-fil-A, the other for it - have emerged.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is backing a call for a National Same-Sex Kiss Day to be held at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide on August 3.

Former Arkansas Gov. and ex-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has called for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” next Wednesday. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, also a former GOP presidential candidate, backed Huckabee’s idea.

"I have been incensed at the vitriolic assaults on the Chick fil-A company because the CEO, Dan Cathy, made comments recently in which he affirmed his view that the biblical view of marriage should be upheld," Huckabee wrote on a Facebook page created for the event.

Four Democratic politicians gained national headlines by lining up on the other side. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told the Boston Herald last week he doesn’t want Chick-fil-A in his city. The company is considering opening a location there.

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population.

"We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino said, according to the Herald.

Menino also wrote to the company, urging Chick-fil-A officials to “back out of your plans to locate in Boston.”

"I was angry to learn on the heels of your prejudiced statements about your search for a site to locate in Boston," Menino wrote to Chick-fil-A. "There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it."

Philadelphia City Councilman James Kenney sent a letter to Cathy this week, telling him to “take a hike and take your intolerance with you,” and vowing to introduce a resolution at the next council meeting condemning the company.

In Chicago, Alderman Joe Moreno has been working for months to block construction of a Chick-fil-A in his district, citing traffic congestion and worry about the company’s “business practices.”

And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this week that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.”

“They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members,” Emanuel told reporters.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that while city officials are free to criticize company leaders for their political views, they have no legal standing to ban the companies based on those views.

“If, in fact, they do prohibit the store from opening, they are opening themselves up to a serious lawsuit,” Toobin said on CNN’s “OutFront” on Thursday.

“What if you had a town that said, ‘We don't want any Democrats opening stores here, or any Catholics or any black people?’ I mean, this is not the place of government. And they are in legal jeopardy if they do this,” Toobin said.

Emanuel’s office said that Emanuel, in particular, “did not say that he would block or play any role in the company opening a new restaurant here.”

“If they meet all the usual requirements, then they can open their restaurant, but he does not believe the CEO’s values are reflective of our city,” his office said.

– CNN's Sarah Aarthun contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Billy Graham • Christian • Fast Food • Food • Religion • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. j0eschm0e

    no one says much when gays are pushing thier ajenda onto the straight community, but when anyone straight says the least little thing, the gays are outraged. you people need to get over yourselves and go away

    August 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adm

      What gay agenda is pushed other than a desire to be treated as equals?

      August 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. j0eschm0e

    I say let em all move to thier own island/country, then they can have all their own rules they want... SEE YAA

    August 2, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • getaclue

      They are in their own country, dope.

      August 3, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. Big Mac

    The cheapest AD Campaign for Chik Fil A is this controversial publicity. Maybe they can just buy the Jesus toast next time.

    August 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Dan

    It is really sad that so many people think that this is over Mr. Cathy speaking his personal views. It is over the company giving millions to hate groups that want nothing but to deny gays the same rights as straights. There are even some of these groups that want to totally elliminate gays, all in the name of Jesus. Wow, it really is making me think that it was pretty easy for Hitler to get all those people to follow him........SAD!

    August 3, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Brad Simmons

    Well, I was wondering what all the hoopla was about and now I know. I'm gay and I'd be the first to admit if I were offended by anti-gay comments. However, I simply was not by what the CEO said. They're a business who hold true to their religious beliefs. That's cool. It's good to know how they feel, I just won't eat there but I honestly think this has been blown way out of proportion.

    August 3, 2012 at 4:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. lj

    The man can believe what he wants to believe as long as he lives in America. Your right to believe as you choose is a part of our freedoms. The hate and vitriol thrown at him is wrong! I happen to believe as he does, yet I have gay family members and neighbors, and I treat them just like I treat everyone else. I don't have to believe as someone else does in order to love and respect them. As for what he does with his money, that's his business and not mine. If you hate it so much, give your money to groups that support what you believe.

    August 3, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • adqautomotive

      He has a right to free speech, but others don't have the right to free speech, including boycott? Are people required to eat at Chick Fil A? I'm really confused about what the big deal is. He said his piece, and now he's lost customers who are offended by it. How does that suppress his freedom of speech? Basically, you're in favor of freedom of speech until you disagree with it, right?

      April 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. getaclue

    So basically what Chik-fil-A is saying to gays is "we think you're an abomination but we'll gladly take your money." Sounds more like the money changers in the temple than Christianity to me.

    August 3, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. tomas martinez

    It is sad... "an opinion" blown out of context. Now Chick-Fila is condemned and attacked by activitists feuled by the secular news media.
    As for the "Kiss-In" couples; These Couples (God Bless'm) they need to thank their MOTHER and FATHER!.. Without "Ma & Pa" they Would Not be here today to express "Freedom of Speech"

    August 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • adqautomotive

      They've been attacked? All I saw was them being boycotted. Would you buy from a Communist company?

      April 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mark

    RECORD SALES THIS WEEK. Then a not so slow PERMANENT DECLINE in sales. The parent company isn't happy about this. I would be very angry with this guy if I owned a franchise, or stock in the company. His business sense is not any better than his sense of civil rights. I'm all for free speech, and the FREE MARKET, which will be speaking in the months to come.

    August 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. LoveLiveLove

    To all the upset straight folks. You may deny the right to love and marry, all you wish. You may turn your heads at the sight of a same gender kiss. But like it or not gay people have always existed and always will exist. If you choose to hate, refuse to see and continue to hold tight to your bible, your traditions of marriage will destroy family's. You allow us the right to exist but refuse us the right to live. You have allowed your bible, your traditions of marriage to speak hate. You have allowed your opinion to prevent my right to love, to live. You will not make me love someone I do not. You will not prevent me from loving someone I do. I can not expect you to give me the right to love, to live. For it is not yours to give. I have the right to love, to live I gave it to myself. It was mine to give. It will be mine to marry. You will know it, It was never your choice. -LOVE-

    August 4, 2012 at 2:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marlin

      No one is saying you cant love.

      Since when has marrige ever been about love.

      August 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Robert

    Hey Mark, news flash, the public has spoken with their money. You just don't like it because it didn't go the way you, and others like you, wanted it to. At this point in history thee numbers don't favor your cause. That might change over time, but in the reality of today, your cause isn't that of the 'common man" or woman. It doesn't matter if you don't like it because, at the moment, you can't change it. Social changes have never happened overnight and never will. Much of what is wrong with your cause is the face that gets put on it by the media. As long as the general public sees the face of a rude, caustic moron like Rosanne Barr and her ilk when they think of the gay movement, you have an uphill battle to wage.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael

      I was looking for stories about the "kiss in" on friday and from what I read that 30 or 40 couples showed up around the country to protest .................. I believe Hundreds of Thousands showed up on Wendsday

      August 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. alma rocha

    I can't believe this BS!!! All these people who claim to be open-minded and who demand respect and acceptance can't seem to accept or respect people who are different than them to the point of denying them business and even showing them hostility. How cynical!!! In my opinion this immature behavior is very improper for anyone in a modern day society.

    August 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Al Dente

      Alll the Chick-fil-a supporters should try to put themselves in the shoes of gays.

      Lets say that a businessperson said that he didn't approve of Christians marrying, adopting children, being able to file taxes together, etc. Lets say that not only was he a religious bigot but he spent $millions of his own money to try to make it illegal for Christians to marry. Then this businessperson says that it is his policy to treat everyone with honor, dignity, and respect but just doesn't think Christians should be able to marry.

      Do you see the problem here? Opposing equal rights for a group is dishonoring, dehumanising, and disrespecting them.

      August 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. simplenamechange

    Did you know that you can change your last name at SimpleNameChange? Simply provide your info and it will provide all PDF forms filled out and ready to be printed.If you get married, it should be, well, a dream marriage

    October 6, 2012 at 4:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Osborn

    I just had a fight with my wife a couple months back. This really caused a great havoc in our marriage. We have been married for three years now. I really love her and want to get her back. Its been about 6 months since we had this fight. We had a fight and she said she loved me a lot before the fight and after the fight she said she did not have the same feelings for me anymore. I need real help to get her back so i contacted a spell caster on the internet and i explain my problems to him and he cast a spell for me and guarantee me of three days that she will come back to me,to my surprise the third day she come back to me and now we are happy again. I just want to say thank you greatbabalajaoracletemple@gmail.com for helping me to get my wife back to me and I am totally grateful. Just in case you also need his help you can contact him on Email greatbabalajaoracletemple@gmail.com he can also render help to you if you need him to..... Osborn.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
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