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. Joy Conn

    I will go eat at Chikfila on Wednesday, because I never want my right to express my views to be taken away from me. I would think that the gay and lesbian population would want to preserve that same right.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scott

    "We're an open city, so you can't do business here."

    "We tolerate everyone, so we have a huge issue with an individual honestly answering questions about a controversial topic for a small religious publication."

    "It's okay for us to do as much as we can to crush your business because we disagree with your views, but if you disagree with our views you must keep quiet as we spread our views through aggressive political and cultural pressure."

    Sounds a little bit hypocritical.

    July 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pattic

    Come on people, get with the program. The controversy has not evolved. It was created by God.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Caleb Boone

    Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

    After reading what Dan Cathy said about God's "judgment," I am moved to rectify the resulting confusion.

    I have quoted below the twelfth through the eighteenth verses of James 1:

    "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."

    And, now, let me entertain you with a little humorous song I have written:

    Dashing Through The Snow!

    Or:

    Scriptures He Don't Know!

    A Hillbilly Carol

    By Caleb Boone

    To be sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells."

    We'll call him "Chicken Dan,"
    He talked all night and day,
    To boost his master plan,
    Confusing all the way.
    Bells on churchtops ring,
    That Dan is wrong, not right.
    How sad it is to say and sing,
    Dan's half-baked thoughts tonight.

    Oh, Chick-fil-A, Chick-fil-A,
    Let's send Dan back to school!
    He needs to learn some Scriptures,
    In a one horse open sleigh!
    Chick-fil-A, Chick-fil-A,
    How dumb can Danny be?
    Oh what fun we'll have when he
    Is well out of the way!

    A day or two ago
    Dan said God would kill us,
    Blow us to kingdom-come,
    Without too much fuss.
    He said we'd be struck down,
    That God would be real mad,
    He'd blow us all to smithereens,
    And hurt us very bad!

    Chick-fil-A, Chick-fil-A,
    Your food is not that good!
    You'll never beat Kentucky Fried,
    With sandwiches made of wood!
    Chick-fil-A, Chick-fil-A,
    The Colonel will survive!
    We'll run you out of town real fast,
    In a one-horse open sleigh!

    Chick-fil-A, Chick-fil-A,
    Go back to Sunday School!
    You need to learn to read and write,
    Not sit on a Dunce Stool!
    Chick-fil-A, Chick-fil-A,
    God is Love, not hate!
    But, bless my heart, you'll never know,
    Unless you study and stay up late!

    Hays, Kansas
    July 30, 2012.

    Have a Dovely.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone,
    Hays, Kansas.

    July 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. @Wsup...Yo

    No one should ever be afraid to speak just because there opinion may be unpopular. I believe the owner of Chic Fil A has the right to voice his opinion. It's called freedom of speech. Gay people fight for their right to rally and speak all the time, but all this stuff about him saying he don't approve of gay marriage is stupid. If people want to quit eating there, so what, let em. I bet if you went to Wal-Mart and told the CEO that you approve (or disapprove) of gay marriage, they really don't care, they are not gonna tell you that you can't spend your money there because of what you do ( or don't ) believe. So, boycotting Chic-fil-a makes no sense to me, they have great food!

    July 30, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    I like Chick-Fil-A restaurants and their quality service. Their stores are also very clean. I stand behind their values and beliefs as they have don't nothing wrong. Since WHEN is expressing your beliefs in this country a criminal offense?

    I think I will start eating lunch there everyday. As a matter fact, I think I'll have breakfast there this morning !!!

    July 31, 2012 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. BlogMediator

    Government has absolutely NO right in attempting to impede private enterprise such as what is the intent by the irresponsible Chicago, Boston and New York Mayors! Charges need to be filed against these these local dictators by the federal government!

    July 31, 2012 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dan

    How many of the responders are still married to their first wife and only wife?Just wondering as 50% of marriages end in divorce and you are only picking out what you want to respond to.Hope you and your spouse are still with your first and only if not you are missing the mans point.

    July 31, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. lorenzo llamas

    I will cast the holy word into the tempest for there are many furious and boastful storms.Where are the shepherds of the
    flock? Where, the defenders of the God they should be worshiping?Who will speak for him concerning this matter? They
    have scattered the sheep across the land to fend for themselves.They run but there is no where to go.Woe to those at
    ease with their tall steeples and towers! Read this word you lost ones and weep before the creator- Romans 1:27.

    July 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandy Greene

      AMEN!!!

      July 31, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sandy Greene

    This has absolutely gotten totally out of hand!!! Come on people!!!! All he said was that he valules the union between a man and a woman, which is quoted in the Bible. He believes in God's word and maybe more of you should read it and live by it and then this wouldn't be a debate at all!

    July 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Lirso

    They call it "discrimination" when it's actually a belief. Society is over analyzing this to the max, though it's not surprising.

    July 31, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SOMom

    I think Mr. Cathy can personally believe anything he likes. However, if he's discriminating against gay employees and/or gay customers, then I do have a problem with that. And if he's giving money to groups trying to deny rights to gays or groups trying to "cure" gays or overturn progress in that respect,then yes, I probably have a problem with that, too. But right now, our family loves Chick-Fil-A, and there are gays among us.

    July 31, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rob

    Straight couples breed them

    July 31, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      that's quite the observation there Captain Obvious.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ellie

    It is better to not talk about it. It will die down. and back at you mr. Kenney......"Philadelphia City Councilman James Kenney , “take a hike and take your intolerance with you.”

    July 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Greg

    If you are polite and can learn and follow the standard rules at CFA & you have tatoo's and pearsings they will hire you if you meet the testing and standards and remove pearsing and cover up yourtatoo's. I like the well mannered always friendly non-cursing and yelling employee's that you do not see or get for service for most of the other food chains have . they can learn from CFA's values for working people and building confidence and their great customer service.

    July 31, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
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