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Chick-fil-A franchise owner vows to treat all with 'dignity and respect'

July 27, 2012 | 11:18 am

The owner of a Chick-fil-A outlet in Laguna Hills, which was picketed as part of a national debate about gay marriage, said he simply wants to serve the community.

On Thursday, 35 protesters arrived at the new restaurant on El Toro Road near the 5 Freeway, complaining about comments made by the chain's CEO.

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

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.

But the owner of the new Laguna Hills store, David Sykora, said his eatery has nothing to do with politics. In an interview with the Orange County Register, he said he plans on "treating everybody with honor, dignity and respect. ... We just want to serve everybody in Laguna Hills; that's our goal."

Laura Cantor, an organizer of the protest 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 was 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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