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Chick-fil-A opening in OC draws protesters over same-sex marriage controversy

July 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Protesters turned out at a new Chick-fil-A opening in Laguna Hills on Thursday after the chain's owner spoke out about same-sex marriage.

People across the nation and on the Internet have vowed to boycott and protest the fast-food chain after Chick-fil-A's CEO Dan Cathy said anti-gay-marriage comments on a radio show last week.

"We are inviting god's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes marriage," Cathy said.

Cathy's comment ruffled more than a few feathers - especially members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender community, who are now asking consumers to boycott Chick-fil-A.

"Those kinds of messages and that kind of rhetoric is very, very hurtful to our families. We have families, we have children, we have parents," said Laura Kanter with the LGBT Services Center.

The demonstration hindered the grand opening festivities of the new restaurant. More than 250 people attended, but the restaurant owners decided to hand out prizes early and send people home because of the protests.

"Because we knew of a potential protest this morning, we wanted to make sure those parties didn't conflict with each other," said Skip Macharg with Chick-fil-A.

Franchisees say each of the restaurants is independently owned.

"What's really important is that we're going to operate our business, again, without discriminating towards anyone regardless of sexual orientation, religious beliefs, creed, gender. We're not going to operate in a way that is discriminating toward anyone - toward our customers or our team members," said restaurant owner Jeremiah Cillpam.

The backlash has spread across the country with politicians in Chicago and Boston, vowing to stop new restaurants from opening.

"I don't believe a company that speaks out against gay rights in our country today has the right to operate in the city of Boston," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Also, the Jim Henson Company announced it will be ending its commercial relationship with the chain.

But not everyone wants Chick-fil-A skinned and plucked. Many came out in support of the fast-food chain and its CEO's comments.

"That really drove me to go out of my way to show support for people to be able to speak their mind, to show the freedom of speech we have in this country and say what they believe," said Chick-fil-A supporter Ken Shepardson.

Conservative politicians are rallying around Cathy's comments and the company - including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum. They are asking the public to support the company by eating at the restaurant on Aug. 1.

Chick-fil-A's Vice President of Public Relations Donald Perry released the following statement:

"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect - regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

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