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. Chill out

    Are we seriously not going to shop at a store because we disagree with the political or religious beliefs of the CEO? Is that really how we want commerce to run?

    Nothing Cathy said was hateful, etc. What happened to free speech. People are being mean to Cathy when all he did was politely and kindly state his relgious view.

    I don't care who made my sandwhich as long as they gave me a good product (so much better than other fast food restaurants) and as long as their customer service is good. Besides, it's a good company... they constantly donate to charities.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • rhondajo3

      Exactly! Nothing that Cathy has said has been hateful, but those who are in an uproar over the statements of his beliefs are spewing hatred! Good comment!

      July 27, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • clemvinson71

      This is exactly how commerce is suppposed to work. The fundamental reason Justice Scalia got away with hijacking campaign finance is because the use of money is in fact a form of free speech. You are supposed to spend or not spend your hard earned labor dollars with companies you approve and appreciate. And conversely, don't spend your money at places you don't approve of.

      In this case, I have no problem with chic-fil-a. I don't agree with this particular stance regarding civil rights, but I've never seen nor heard of anyone being chased off from a chic-fil-a for being non-christian. In fact, they are the only restaurant chain I know of that doesn't even chase off the homeless (they feed them, very christian).

      yep, this is in fact how we want commerce to work. Apply your voice via your purchases.

      July 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gohek

    What I don't get is this. If gay marriage is acceptable, why isn't polygamy? If you allow one group to be married why not the other ones? That seems quite hypocritical, where is equal rights for all? I support this guy, at least he believes in the first amendment, unlike most of the pansies in the U.S who can't take an opinion.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gohek

    How is he a joke?

    July 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. warningfor

    This is for the gay and abortion community:
    WARNING far far far right wing and very powerful men in politics as religion have been luring you both out of your closets.
    They will flip-flop back on sodomy and abirtion. Never a federal gay marriage, ever.
    They hide behind org's such as Focus on the Family. They are crafty. They even sponsor gay parades and lobby congress for gay rights.
    I don't know how else to warn you, unless you ask sincere questions. Sincerely, Philip.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. warningfor

    Do you not see that your community's (gay and abortion) have but token representation? Do you see how far away having a gay president is?
    Do not share tactics w/NAACP. that org. too is a trap...men who fan the flames of racism to keep black citizens seperate and confined to ghettos...their children mere fodder for the military or gangsta.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. warningfor

    Wrong. Cathy said his COMPANY stands for traditional marriage in OPPOSITION to gay marriage. Can't you read? It's in the second pararaph of this news story.
    If all he gave was his personal opinion, nada problemo. He publicly announced his Corporate Opinion. Big, not small. he's one man.
    Now...you know why president Obama maintains sodomy is a violation of US military Code. The president as commander i chief could make it legal with a stroke of his pen and a verbal order. Think of the fight that would ensue...and is why it has not nor ever will be done.
    The men who control the troops are in bed with the men who control the flocks..both are good at fleeceing. (and yes, literally in bed in some cases. Many of these men are themselves gay)

    July 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wanderer

      Umm – that's not what HE said. That's what the reporter/journalist wrote in the piece. What he said is in para 5 – in quotes.

      July 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wanderer

      He just said they support a traditional family unit – he never said he opposed gay marriage. Live and let live.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matt

    You seem a bit over interested in the bedroom habits of other people. I predict a cell reserved for you soon.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Dalloway

      I think he might have had some experience?

      July 28, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • gerald

      Marriages don't happen in bedrooms. You don't need to be married these days to do that. Where have you been since the 60's.

      July 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      you are correct that marriage has been marginalized and profaned since the '60s...this is the work of masonic sects and modernists...

      July 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nancy

    You as an individual can show your non-support for Chick-fil-A by boycotting the business, one does not have to resort to banning it from opening.

    July 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Matt

    Warningfor, I haven't read one coherent post from you. I have to posit that these ramblings are rendered meaningless except to those who are smoking the exact same thing as you. In other words, pulp fiction.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gold Dragon©™

    Hello everyone.

    What happened to freedom of speech and having an opinion?

    People sure like to make a "mountain out of a mole hill" over trivial stuff.

    I will choose to eat wherever I darn well please.
    Sometimes I wish the GLBT people would stop their whining over stupid stuff. GOSH. (rolls eyes) Get a life whiners!

    July 27, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Dalloway

      Cathy had his now we will have ours.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. chris

    I dont beleive in gay marrige.The Bible says you are not suppost to be married to the same gender.That Chicago chain that will not let Chick fill a open is evil.How dare they.The world is so evil these days.How dare you harras the Cathy family.Its sick for a man and man be married and a women to be married to a women.Jesus is the way!

    July 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Dalloway

      I don't believe in you.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |

    VERY DANGEROUS GROUNDS. and in a great part has already led to the destruction of Rights in the US.
    Rights are defined as being "outside" of interference by a central power or majority to vote upon.
    The majority of people, even 99.9999% were not supposed to be able to pass a law forming a state religion; but in effecte that's no longer impossible today, bad example for they do it darn near every session of congress and by executive orders (almost 300 in 4 years, ).
    Both sides of gay marriage issue are acting as thought police and there is way to much self emulation. by each

    July 28, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rascal Rabble

    you arrogant persecutors of christains...to deny someone livelihood, business and employment oportunities because they neither agree nor support your filth...you are the true haters especially of those things holy and sacred...you feign citizentry but are the most unpatriotic for you attack the const!tution...true treasoners and anarchists...with your rhetoric and unlawful,
    illicit policies...violators and dismantlers of
    religious freedoms, inalienable rights and our const!tution...you should find something better to do with your time other than deceiving america...

    July 28, 2012 at 2:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. chrissy

    lmfao @ little mister, good nite little man!

    July 28, 2012 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
  15. 4 - G

    I support Chick-fil-A its a sad thing the Christians can't voice there opinion without these gay right idiots coming out of the closet . Go back in the closet –kneel down and pray - for the lord is coming back soon to gather his church. Way to go chick fil a president

    July 28, 2012 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
    • George

      Another installment of intolerant leftists using Saul Alinsky personal demonization tactics to personally destroy anyone who diverges from their strict ideology. Leftist = totalitarian.

      July 28, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
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