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Chick-fil-A CEO's gay marriage stand applauded during rally

August 1, 2012 | 12:56 pm

 The CEO of Chick-fil-A, whose comments opposing gay marriage generated a national debate, got some backing Wednesday at a Northridge location during the national "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."

Chick-fil-A Chief Executive Dan Cathy said in a recent interview with the Baptist Press 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," Cathy continued. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

More than a dozen people stood outside the Northridge Chick-fil-A on Wednesday morning, 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.

“This man has the courage to stand up and back what he says, and also this is America, we have a right to say what we wanna say in our business, this is his business,” Mary Helen McFarland told KCBS-TV.

"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.

“He disagrees with same-sex marriage,” added protester Deborah Leigh to KCBS. “Most of the people here do too. We’re about freedom of speech and think he was … targeted because he truthfully told his opinion on something.”

Employees at the Northridge restaurant declined to comment, referring questions to the company's corporate office.

Cathy's comments sparked criticism nationwide — including a demonstration at a Laguna Hills Chick-fil-A — as many pledged to boycott the restaurant chain. In response, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," calling on people to eat at the  restaurant to show support.

Last week, the owner of the Chick-fil-A on Sunset Boulevard circulated a letter on the restaurant's Facebook page stating his plans to run his business apolitically. Jeremiah Cillpam's restaurant straddles two of the area's largest LGBT populations in Hollywood and West Hollywood.

"We strive to ensure that every guest receives amazing food and service regardless of belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender," Cillpam wrote.

According to KTLA, supporters of gay marriage planned to go to the Hollywood restaurant Wednesday afternoon. A woman who answered the phone there that morning said so far, things were "business as usual."

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— Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

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