A Wenham man was one of thousands who turned out at fast food chain Chick-fil-A on Wednesday for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
The company's president Dan Cathy has been both vilified and idolized in recent days because of the company's stance on gay marriage. And both dueling sides in that argument linined up at across the nation today to either support the company or protest, including at the franchise at the in Peabody.
In Burlington, the line stretched around the food court. And that line included Lancelot Ball of Wenham, who held a sign in support of Chick-Fil-A for a Boston Herald photographer on Wednesday.
In recent interviews with news outlets, Cathy acknowledged his company does not agree with nor support gay marriage. Until then, Cathy had not explicitly stated his views on the subject, although Chick-fil-A has been under fire by gay rights advocates and supporters for the past few years due to documented financial support the company has given to organizations that have been labeled as "anti-gay."
Cathy, however, said the organizations were ones that supported a traditional, biblical and heterosexual view of marriage, which was in line with the family company's Christian values. He said Chick-fil-A does not discriminate based on sexual orientation and the company released a statement, saying it won't get politically involved in the issue.
Cathy's remarks that the United States was "inviting God's judgment" on it by having the "audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about," likewise fanned the ire of those same critics, who expressed their outrage.
Mayors in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have even threatened to ban the company from opening new locations in their cities, and plans for campus franchises have been derailed at some college campuses after protests from student groups.
And at the same time, just as many have rallied to the defense of Cathy and Chick-fil-A, such as former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who praised Cathy for taking a stand and said the company shouldn’t be publicly vilified for contributing to causes it supports. In fact, Huckabee called for Aug. 1 to be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
"Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we're considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers and intolerant," Huckabee said.
The Bangor Daily News reports that the Christian Civic League of Maine even sent a bus down to the Northshore Mall on Wednesday. There are no Chick-fil-A franchises in Maine.
Likewise, demonstrations were organized at Chick-fil-A franchises around the country to protest and boycott the company. A silent protest was held at the Peabody location between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.
"We as a region have a say in what kind of 'values' we expect from businesses that chose to receive money from our pockets. If you don't live here, find your nearest Chick-Fil-A and organize your own sit in," writes Lauren Doucette on a Facebook event page for the Peabody demonstration. She urged anyone interested in coming to protest peacefully, wear appropriate attire and not harass employees or customers or otherwise cause a scene in the mall.
"Show them that we are just like everyone else, don't play into Chick-Fil-A's hands that we're deviants and deserve less than any other human being," Doucette said.
Last Thursday, a police officer kept watch in the Food Court due to “hostile reaction” to news of the controversy, according to police, although no further incidents were reported.
Same-sex couples are also now being encouraged to pucker up in front of their local Chick-fil-A on Friday as part of a nationwide movement called "National Same-Sex Kiss Day." Several locals tell the Boston Herald they plan to do just that in Peabody on Friday.
So what do you think about this hot-button issue?
Are Chick-fil-A and Dan Cathy really anti-gay and deserving of public scorn and boycotting? Or is this really no different than any other private business donating money to a cause it supports?
Weigh in via the comments section and we ask that you be respectful of each other's opinions.