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Chick-fil-A caught in political firestorm over gay marriage

July 26, 2012 |  3:22 pm

The opening of a Chick-fil-A outlet in Laguna Hills has become part of a national debate over the chicken eatery's chief executive and his views on gay marriage.

Comments made by chief executive Dan Cathy have sparked calls for boycotts, and officials in Boston and Chicago have said they oppose the restaurant locating in both cities. Meanwhile, some Christian groups have come to the fast-food joint's defense.

On Thursday, 35 protesters arrived at the new restaurant on El Toro Road near the 5 Freeway.

In a recent interview with Baptist Press, Cathy said that although he doesn't consider Chick-fil-A a "Christian business," he does operate on "biblical principles."

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that," Cathy said.

One protester touted his own Christian values in support of gay rights.

"We’ll get there in time. We pray. Yes, we do pray," said Jonathan Jensen, 25, of Irvine.

But not everyone agreed with the demonstration. David Kincer drove from Lake Elsinore to protest against the protest.

"They bash traditional family with their lies," said 69-year-old Kincer.

Laura Cantor, an organizer of the event and director of youth service at the Center in Orange County, a LGBT community center, said that if the group persuaded one person to avoid Chick-fil-A, the protest would be a success.

“I’m also married to my first wife," Cantor said. "I have a family too. That’s why we're here. We want to be treated with the same dignity and respect.”

Later in the day, protesters managed to turn one person away -- but only after they offered to pay the potential patron $20.

“We certainly respect everyone’s right to express opinions, and we appreciate it’s been done in a respectful manner, so we can celebrate our opening and welcome our guests,” said Cindy Chapman, a Chick-fil-A spokeswoman. 

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-- Joanna Clay in Laguna Hills and Melissa Leu in Los Angeles

Follow Melissa Leu on Twitter and Google+.

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