Chick-fil-A Controversy Continues: Supporters say they are Fighting for Free Speech

By: LA Times
By: LA Times

Some of those who took part in "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" said they were not simply drawn to the fast food eateries because of its chief executive's controversial stance on gay marraige.

Some said they were standing up for his right to express his opinions without facing boycotts by those who disagree with him.

Mark Almlie, 39, said he's never had Chick-fil-A food, but drove from Simi Valley to the restaurant Wednesday to support "people that will stand up for what they believe in."

"I'm not against gay rights by any means, but I think this guy is getting a bad rap," Beaumont resident Ed Vatter, 57, said over a plate of chicken nuggets and waffle fries at the Chick-fil-A in Laguna Niguel.

"Plus," he told The Times. "the food's pretty good."

Hundreds of people turned out at chicken eateries throughout the state Tuesday in support.

Hundreds of people lined up outside a Northridge Chick-fil-A on Wednesday afternoon.

Gwilym McGrew, who drove to the fast-food restarauant from Woodland Hills, said more than 100 cars were waiting along Tampa Avenue to pull into the parking lot. "A couple hundred" people had lined up on foot, he said, some drinking water distributed by employees.

"It's very calm madness," McGrew said. "Everybody's very orderly."

McGrew was one of many people who ventured to the restaurant to show support for Chick-fil-A, which drew criticism after chief executive Dan Cathy recently said he and his company were against gay marriage. The comments drew strong reactions, with customers pledging to boycott the chain and some mayors proclaiming they would not allow Chick-fil-A to open in their cities.

In response, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared Wednesday to be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, calling on people to eat at the restaurant to show support.

McGrew said he came to the restaurant to support Cathy's religious beliefs, even though he said he himself is not religious.

"I'm not getting myself involved in the issue of gay marriage and all that, I'm not getting involved in a religious debate," he said. "I'm getting involved in the government putting their thumb on a businessperson for his religious beliefs."

Customers said they waited in line for about 20 minutes, and were told it would take about an hour longer before they were able to order their food.

Earlier Wednesday, more than a dozen people stood outside the Northridge Chick-fil-A, waving American flags and holding signs that read, "Free to speak, to build, to boycott." The event was organized by the San Fernando Valley Patriots, a local arm of the tea party.

"That man — just like you or I — has a right to say, 'This is what I believe' and not be punished for it," Karen Kenney of the San Fernando Valley Patriots told KTLA.

The Northridge restaurant declined to comment and referred questions to the company's corporate office.

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