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. HIDE BEHIND

    Try looking up the words tolerance and intolerance, impertinate and insolence, and then go to Huffington Post to read ""Redefining Tolerance" by Mr. Cole.
    IMNSHO, The most thought out commentary upon this whole rediculous affair.

    July 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Philip

    Who gets the government contracts? The far right. Who controls the military? The far right, who insist sodomy remain a violation of US Military Code and so president Obama stands-down on this issue, bowing to those in charge...the far right.
    How many CIA agents are liberal? LMAO.
    no matter how YOU feel, these men will have their way. Abortion, sodomy, and gay holy matrimony will be bannished.

    July 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lady

      Oh, stop. You're rambling.

      July 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. AUGH!!!

    who cares what he thinks, I dont know why atheist and other folks are so up tight about a guys personal beliefs....such intolerance!!! Just eat the chicken...........lord have mercy ...does it really affect u eat ur fries n shut up!

    July 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AUGH!!!

    he never said he hated it......he just said he disagreed with it.....omg i really dislike atheist and liberals they take an inch and go a mile..............pathetic!

    July 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    People who think gays marriage supports are lashing out at him, then you're right and wrong. They are trying to get as much voice in every aspect of the media. Cathy stated and took a side with a long time controversial argument. The reason this is getting so much attention from both sides because they are using his publicity to further theirs.

    Everyone's selfish in this aspect.

    July 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • TryDay

      Instead of "Eat More Chickin" The new slogan should be

      "EMBRACE THE HATE EAT AT CHICK-FIL-A"

      No wonder their head of public relations had a heart attack and died.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. God's Own

    How is it that the gay community expects tolerance form the Christian community yet refuses to tolerate Christians speaking God's truths?

    July 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lady

    Pot, meet kettle.

    July 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. confused in wv

    Chicago's mayor should try and explain why the state he lives in has civil unions only and does not recognize gay marriage before he worries about a fast food restaurant

    July 28, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      He doesn't have to do that. He only has to explain Chicago's standards.
      I don't know if there are any CFA's in Springfield; but Chicago decides what it wants for Chicago.

      July 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rolling Rock

    Subtle, lol!

    July 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Corpratist

    I didn't see any corporations marching against gay civil liberties. All I saw was angry gay people. Everyone but gay/gay sympathetics remained civil. If you cannot handle the civil iberty you already have in a civil manner, it wouldn't do you any good to burden you with more. If you didn't get what you wanted after that, you would really throw a fit. Worse than PP protestors. "Save the Whales" for last.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy©

    Eat more fish.
    9

    July 28, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jimmy99

    This has been turned into a war. Dan Cathy simply stated his beliefs. Not that he hates gays, but that he believes marriage is between a man and woman. Even if gay marriage is made legal facts are facts. They can not procreate, so they will always be different. That's nature, not hate.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. yourfierytongue

    Maybe gay couples should be made to sit at the back of the bus as well...

    July 28, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      This sounds like a good idea. Do you live in the South?

      July 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Hamsta

    A man who runs his business according to his beliefs is not the bigot, the gay man who tries to force a private business to accept his corupr ans ungodly lifestyle is a bigot.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • SKC

      I agree with you. He has a right to his opinion, it is his company.

      July 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meli

      Well said!!!

      July 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Shocked@Ppl

    Picket the places...great idea. Get them better wages.....what!? They dont work there. They just want to destroy this families way of making a living? And dont let them open any of their business in new locatios? I thought cities everywhere were trying to create new jobs. Confussing.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
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