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. Regina

    Look at how wicked this world is....God made ADAM for EVE.... U can't say u a christian but yet be a supporter of something that is not "CHRIST-like" two words people JESUS SAVES

    August 1, 2012 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. Cathyblows

    Two points...
    1) Marriage in this country is civil marriage not biblical marriage. Non believers can get married just like believers. Those who believe marriage is between a man and a woman are free to believe that but that is a religious belief. It has nothing to do with civil marriage in a nation that has separation of church and state.
    2) Mr Cathy is free to believe what he wants but when the profits from his company support hate groups who espouse conversion therapy for gays which clearly doesn't work and hateful and inaccurate messages that pander to bigotry and ignorance I cannot continue to add to those profits. And that is what I am free to believe. So sadly I can no longer support Chik fil a.

    August 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Paul Sowden

    I can only imagine what God thinks about this as this country gets farther and farther away from His principles and standards. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When will Christians stand up for what they believe like Mr. Cathy? We are called to love the sinner but hate the sin. Let's love the sinner with the truth of the Word of God. His standard never changes

    August 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Johnny

    In your opinion who created gays then? If your saying that only gays have gay kids then...my friend you are very wrong and very stupid. Either your god created them or your fellow heteros did.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sue Marriott

    Wow, talk about judgemental. Not gay, but support anyone who might not be "exactly" like me. Get off your judgemental soapbox and love one another, even if they might not be like you. I will never, EVER, visit a Chik-fil-a store again.....EVER.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • MyMindSpeak

      Are you the one not going back to Chick-Fil-A? So many say that but eventually the food craven takes hold. Good Luck! Hahaha

      August 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. blahblahblah

    Im annoyed. I see this world as very black and white now with no grey anymore. Definitely becoming a world that if you don't believe the same then one of you is wrong and must be extinguished. scary. really scary.

    August 2, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. blahblahblah

    For me (I am speaking for me not everyone else) what it comes down to is that this CEO has the right to say whatever he wants. (Freedom of Speech).

    He was speaking in an interview done with the Biblical Recorder. You would think this would be his 'Safe' place to speak freely on his own beliefs....but nonetheless he is attacked by those opposing his beliefs. I don't agree with that.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. AshleyM512

    I find it funny that the group of people asking for tolerance, is unable to GIVE tolerance. It's like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum because another kid said they weren't their friend.

    August 2, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. Brittany

    The gay community wants equal rights in this country and yet they overreact to one man's opinion. It is a well known fact that Chik fil a is a Christian-owned company and there was a pretty good chance the owners have traditional beliefs. Besides all that, when was it acceptable to disregard the First Ammendment and blow up over one man's opinon? I support gay marriage, but the "God Hates Hate" banners are ridiculous. The man never said he hated gays, he said he believed in traditional marriage. That's it.

    August 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Petra Meyer

    Has anyone thought to ask Mr. Cathy what he means by the "Biblical definition of family"? Does he mean the type of family mentioned in 1 Kings 11:3 where it states that King Solomon has 700 wives and 300 concubines?

    August 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. itlk2aa

    I think this is outrageous!!! Chic fil a never said that they don't respect Gay people, they only said that they do not believe in Gay Marriage. You can respect people and their rights without agreeing with them!!

    August 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      They didn't even mention gay marriage, just the support of the traditional family.

      August 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      As a married gay man I support 100% Dan Cathy's right to say anything and express his views. I do not know of one occurrence where he was prevented from doing as such. I can say I disagree with him, and I can choose to no longer frequent his business...even though I love the chicken nuggets so much I once had my anniversary dinner there.

      I acknowledge that the family (it has been credited as Dan Cathy's Niece) has come out and said that they believe the issue to be a moral one and not a civil one. Again I stand up for their right to believe that, and believe they should be able to shout that from every corner in America if they so choose. But the company's moral foundation have inspired them into the civil environment when they donate millions of dollars to efforts that directly work to restrict the civil liberties of fellow Americans.

      The company has done amazing work to strengthen communities, and has given back much to local schools and children. Think how much better the millions of dollars of corporate profits could have been spent building jobs and this country rather than being dedicated toward efforts to keep a very small minority of people from having certain rights (which actually pose no threat or do arm to anyone except for being against their beliefs). It seems like a waste.

      If this was a racially motivated issue Dan Cathy and a leader of GLAAD might even be invited to the White House for a beer and a 'teachable moment' with President Obama (sarcasm intended)...but I suspect that won't be happening. I love my country. I was raised well, well educated, and have never experienced a day with hunger. I want for nothing. I consider myself a Goldwater Republican (that was back when being a Republican meant you didn't need Big Government telling us how to live our lives). I am a devout Deist, and I am proud I live in a country where religious freedom exists. I have been in a committed, healthy relationship for twenty one years that I'm confident mirrors nearly every aspect of Dan Cathy's relationship with his spouse in all but one way. I respect that my relationship is morally repugnant to his family. But how he feels about what happens in my home between two consenting Americans where no one is being hurt or threatened and in no way shape or form affects his life becomes more than moral repugnance when he donates MILLIONS of dollars to groups that further the civil issue against gay marriage. It becomes oppression.

      August 2, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      WRONG They give LOTS AND LOTS of money to groups that DO HATE. Now, the image people get in their mind when they see a Chick fil A sign is women kissing women, (cute) and men kissing men (not so cute) instead of THE MUPPETS (Yes I'm a huge hypocrite to support the gay community and then say that.) He should have kept his mouth shut. Sales will plummet in the coming months. He has also alienated many "normal" christians.

      August 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kato

    All he said was that the definition of marrage did not include gays. That's his opinion and he has a right to it.

    ARe his restaurants refusing service to gays? NO.

    So, basically, the gays are protesting because he does not believe as they do. Since when is a difference of opinion a reason for protest? This is called FREEDOM.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steevo

      And the protesters are equally free to object and choose not to spend their money there.

      August 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wastedaway

    itlk2aa hit the nail on the head. This is OUTRAGEOUS! However, what is outrageous is not the controversy surrounding Mr. Cathy's comments. Rather what is an outrage is that this country has turned into a place where people, who are guaranteed freedom of speech under Bill of Rights, are not even allowed freedom of thought, let alone freedom of speech. I applaud Mr. Cathy for having the courage to speak his mind. I applaud the radio station brave enough to broadcast those words. It infuriates me when Government officials, Ed Helms, Jim Henson Co., GLAAD and the rest feel only they have a right to free thinking and free speech.

    Just to let you know where I am coming from, I personally do not frequent Chick-fil-a because I think their product is overpriced. Also, I have been openly Gay for about 22 years. But on this you can count on, I will attend every Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day I can in support of Mr. Cathy’s right to free thought and free speech. The only hate in this equation is in the minds of the people bashing Mr. Cathy.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sanjay

      This argument makes not sense whatsoever. No one is saying he does not have a right to speak as he wishes. However, people don't have to agree with him and many don't. He spokes his mind and his beliefs and the Jim Henson company said I do not agree and we are stopping doing business with you. Just as he can say what he want so too can others. What you are asking for is his ability to say what he wants ithout anyone responding. Thats not free speech. Why shouldn't GLAAD be able to speak out for their beliefs?

      August 3, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tom

    Those who favor gay marriage have every right to do so. Those who oppose gay marriage have every right to do so.
    Ever hear of freedom of speech? What I object to are attempts to restrict freedom of speech through political or economic pressure. This is reprehensible regardless of one's persuasion.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • j0eschm0e

      In other words, the gays are wrong to protest, we are all allowed free speech. I am sure if the gays had thier own restaurant aka "gayville" and proclaimed they didnt want straight people there, then it would be , yup ok, whatever see ya. and that would be that. go get your own restaurant and shut it up

      August 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Catherine

      I agree with you up to the economic pressure issue. Those who support gay rights have every right not to spend their money at a business that is anti-gay and to encourage others not to as well. Henson had every right to disengage with a business whose CEO expressed beliefs that were not consistent with theirs. Where that type of pressure stops however, is banning the opening of stores in Boston or Chicago or anywhere else. The government can disagree, but as long as Chik-A-Fil does not discriminate, they should be left alone.

      August 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. nitrous

    Standing up for & professing your beliefs – OK. Using profits from your sales to support anti-gay initiatives – not OK. OK?

    August 2, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • annie oakley

      No – it is not OK to tell a private business how to spend the profits of that business. Well, it is OK in that you enjoy the same freedom of speech that Cathy has. So talk away.

      August 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlin

      Giving money to Glaad and other organizations who support Gay Rights. Freedom of Speech and Wonderful

      Giving money to groups that spend millions and communities but do not support gay rights... not freedom of speach and horrible.

      How doe sthat work?

      August 4, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlin

      But seriously dude. Can you not call them "The gays". To me thats the same as saying "The Asians" or "The Blacks" when you are having a racial debate. You come off as bigoted. Hell I do not support gay marrige ( I perfer civil unions with the same legal rights and standing) but you seem filled with rage to me.

      August 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
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