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. fernace

    Cathy has a right to abide by his beliefs! He doesn't have the right to discriminate, in his business & so far there's no proof that the company does! People are free to eat there or not! The problem is he jumped in to a hot political issue & now he wants to back out & "let politicians handle it"! The point is many politicians want to ban/block/dismantle/create laws that marginalizes/dehumaizes a whole section of the lawabiding poulace! Is that right!? No, it's Never right to do that! Never has been, never will be! If the "biblical definition" of family is 2 loving partners, working hard & caring for their kids, then gay couples qualify! If not maybe "non-traditional" hetero couples should be worried, too!!

    July 29, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Word fernace.
      Let's not forget that the last law banning interracial marriage was only struck down in 1967.

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

      what have you been smoking? Sodomy is against the law and has been for america's entire history. As a matter of fact the only position that is legal is the missionary position. Have you ever heard of crimes against nature? Every act of passion other than missionary falls under that category. And God clearly disapproves of the gay lifestyle. Read the story of Sodom and Gammorha and realize that is exactly where the word sodomy comes feom. That is the exact reason he destroyed those two cities.

      July 29, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Army Wife

      The biblical definition of a family is a man and a woman .. And I don't think that Mr. Cathy was trying to jump into any political issues .. He simply made the comment that his personal conviction and blief was that marriage should be between a man and a woman ... If the gay community wants to demand tolerance for their choices and their beliefs the I find it only appropriate that they do the same .. You don't have to agree with what Christians believe to be right but you get respect from showing respect .. And when you want to say that someone is a bigot because of a personal belief that they have I would say that is quite disrespectful.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PRD

    What I find disturbing is that the fundamental principals of our country are being forgotten in the Chicken/Marriage debate. The owner is being told he is wrong for voicing his beliefs. Are we now saying that if what you say is not what we want to hear it is wrong? That we all need to believe the same? Our forefathers fled countries that persecuted in this way. We should revel in the fact that in this country we can believe what we wish. That we can express those beliefs without fear of reprisal. Both sides need to be heard, but those that can damage, hurt, destroy or punish those that have the courage to express opinions have an obligation to tread carefully and fairly.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      He, of course, is not wrong for voicing his beliefs; especially when the journalist flat-out asked him.
      The people speaking out are not wrong, either.
      They are voicing *their* beliefs.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 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 29, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Um, what?


    Where is the reprisal, in this case?

    Other than you calling me a name because I replied to another poster...

    July 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ha Ha

    His initials are p E d, not p R d. Ha ha, it ain't even who you think!

    July 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bobcat (in a hat)©

    It is always so refreshing to see a commenter with nothing to say show their mentality by reverting to name calling. It shows ones self for what they truly are.

    July 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I've figured out the who; what I can't figure out is the *why*.

      July 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. chris

    “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."

    Not sure who Ed Helms is, but he REALLY spins the statement. Chick-Fil-A just made a comment of what they support – there was NO MENTION of NOT LIKING anyone. MANY people (like me) could care less what non-violent people do. The stance is neutral until they start trying to jam their opinion on me – all Cathy did was voice an opinion and some people went ballistic. At least it pulled the heat from the Boy Scouts.

    July 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Boni

    A person who is gay does not deserve to be haraased for their beliefs and neither does a person that says he.she does not believe in gay marriage. Im not going to visit a gay bar. do I think they need to be closed and denied business? No and neither does Chikfila.

    July 29, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve d.

      Well put Boni ( I assume it's pronounced "bah-knee"). And,as a side note,I'll bet C.f las' sales-and support from Millions of Chrstians-has only increased,OOPS!!!

      July 30, 2012 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. Peter Stemkowski

    If on old order Amish want's to marry another old order Amish, so what?!!! All this fuss over same sect marriage is just stupid.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve d.

      So what you're saying,Pete,is that a zealous or overly religious person is a sect maniac???

      July 30, 2012 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. Chris

    I am really confused by all the vitriol being spewed in this situation. A business owner stated his personal, religious beliefs in a small religious forum. He is not changing the way that he does business, he is not refusing service or employment to any segment of the population. He is not asking you to support his belief and he is not pushing his beliefs on anyone, he was simply stating them. Last I checked that was protected free speech and the things he said do not display hatred or intolerance, but a closely held personal belief. I don't understand why someone who is Atheist, Islamic, Buddhist, Wiccan, etc. etc can say whatever they want to say and everyone has to hear them out politely, but when a person shares a personal Christian belief everybody freaks out and the ACLU comes running. Seriously, can't we all just get along?

    July 29, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • John M

      Very well said!

      July 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • N W

      Actually, it's not about the views of Mr. Cathy, but the fact that the Chick-Fil-A corporation pours millions of it's consumer generated dollars into organizations who actively promote discrimination against gay people and equality. This includes Exodus International, which at one point in time practiced electroshock therapy on gay teens if their parents signed a waiver (not the teen themselves). So while no city can legally bar them from opening, there is absolutely nothing wrong with consumers boycotting and taking them to task for their ACTIONS- not their words.

      July 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kurt

      While Dan can certainly cite his personal views, he blatantly said they were the company's views, not just his. Chic-Fil-A as a company is now held accountable to those statements and are suffering because of it. Dan's comments are not, however, what is most impactful here. Chic-fil-A donates millions of dollars to anti-gay groups – a clear attack on what an increasing majority of this country considers an equal rights movement. It is for this reason people want to boycott the business, not just because his verbal statements.

      July 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. 0rangeW3dge

    Which came first, the chicken restaurant or the egg?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bgibb50

    If the owner and founder of Chick-fil-A was a Muslim, this "controversy" would never have made the light of day, nor wood the mayors of two cities be practising their own discrimination against the company.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. TiredODaCrap

    I had not seen where the interview took place in "the Biblical Recorder, on online journal for Baptists in North Carolina. " The obvious question is what did you think he – or the interviewer's – opinion on the subject would be. Of more interest to me, how did a small, religious periodical's interview turn into a national issue? Sounds like one side of this issue was just out looking for a fight!

    July 30, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. Freedom Bear

    I can see what is next. After the push for voter ID's there will be a gender ID requirement?

    July 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. the_dude

    As if we needed another reason to hate gays.......keep gayness out of my chicken sandwich. Gayness out of chicken sandwiches. Gayness out of my chic ken sandwich.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
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