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. banasy©

    Sigh...
    Eat where you like.
    Believe what you like.
    Good grief...

    July 27, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Taylor

    You go to Chick-fil-a to eat nuggets, not have a political debate. This whole uproar is the definition of stupid. Just more people trying to find more stuff to argue with. And people wonder why this country is so messed up.

    July 27, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • anonymous

      Thank you thank you thank you. someone finally said it. And the chicken at chik fila is real and not processed junk at mcdonalds.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. kenny

    they should ban the Super Bowl and every business that places an ad, as it is the biggest event that is prime targets for sex traffickers because of the high demand generated by thousands of men pouring into an area for a weekend of fun. The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought into Miami.

    Throughout the article, we heard the words...inclusive...how is having a different belief structure, and voicing it and then being attacked for it...or businesses shut down or not welcomed "INCLUSIVE"...double standards avail to the loudest voices...backed by Media and Celebrities who don't even know reality if it hit them on the head.

    July 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. GM

    Don't see the controversy. He was asked his opinion, he gave his opinion. That I agree with him is a statement of my opinion, one of the joys of living in the USA. Mind you, the lack of tolerance on the side of the folks up in arms against them about it and the tactics they are using to try to silence those who do not agree has me really wondering?!?

    July 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joyce

    Just because I disagree with another's personal choice does not make me automatically wrong. I have the right to my beliefs as well as the gay community. I have never considered boycotting Starbucks because of the owners beliefs. I respect their choice and enjoy visitng their establishment. Why should Chik Fil A have to endure such bias?

    July 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chicago girl

    Chicago values? What, like shooting little girls at the playground?

    July 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. white

    I think Mr.Cathy has every right to say what he believes in ; and in a country where being a Christian seems to be a dirty word, we do not heat anyone but the other side seems to hate us. They ask for tolerance and yet they do not show tolerance to others you need to give what you ask others to give you.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banana

    I am trying to find the nearest location of chic-fil-a so I can eat there. Mr. Cathy, if they don't welcome you, shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them bring your peacee to tbhose who will recognize it for what it is. Thank you for disturbing the darkness with having spoken the truth.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • jully

      Although I've never eaten at a Chick-fil-a before, my husband and I are setting our sights on one this weekend. Can't wait, I hear the chicken is fresh and not chicken pieces. I want to support this man as much as I can ... and with prayer too.

      July 27, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Philip

    @white. Good point. Plus they get a closet to hide in and WE don't. What's up with THAT!

    July 27, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dj

    GLBT people need to understand. Marriage is reserved for a union between 1 man and 1 woman. This has been the custom since the existence of mankind. Whether you believe in God, or not.

    Natural law and nature itself tells us that the male and female unite to mate. many species of animals mate for life. Even they get it, when GLBT don't.

    You cannot defy nature or God, if you do, you are living a lie. This is GLBT inflicting their abnormal and unnatural lifestyle on the world, living a lie, and forcing everyone to accept it at all cost. The whole idea of gay marriage is just sick.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      It's LGBT. If you're going to call out a specific group for their interests because they differ from your own, at least do them the courtesy of calling them by their name.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. YRC

    WOW, I guess when some people want to make a big deal over anything, they find it. I like to eat at Chick-fil-A when I'm stress from my daily work. So, after reading this article I'm thinking to go and relax and have A Blessed meal..Ypu all should do the same, ....

    July 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Portland tony

    You know, I never thought of Ronald MacDonald's, The Burger King's or the guy who speaks for Jack-in-the-box's sexual orientation or marital status before I order fast food. It's not important to me. I am purchasing food and maybe fast service. Not trying to establish a personal relationship with
    owners or their representatives!

    July 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat (in a hat)©

    This "controversy" is just totally insane. No where was it said that he has anything against gays. He was asked if he supported traditional marriage. He said "We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit."
    He went on to say, " 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."
    No where in his statement were there any kind of talking down to the gay community. So I guess I'm just not understanding what got everyone so fired up.
    Simple solution. You don't want to eat there ? Don't eat there.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. joepub

    Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values? There is no way he said that with a straight face.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Smooth

    What happened to freedom of speech and belief. Are we free to believe in anything ONLY if a certain group says we have to? The gay and lesbian equality movement seems to publically try force those that don't believe or support their group to be silenced... I wish we lived in a free country, where I am free to believe in what I want and the freedom to express it without being attacked for those beliefs...

    July 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
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