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Chick-fil-A 'Kiss in' is ground-zero in gay marriage fight

August 3, 2012 |  2:58 am

The battle lines on the issue of gay marriage have been drawn after both backers and critics staged demonstrations this week at Chick-fil-A, whose chief executive publicly expressed opposition to same-sex unions.

"Chick-fil-A executives have every right to alienate as many customers as they want by giving millions to organizations that work every day to make life harder for LGBT people" said Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation President Herndon Graddick in a statement. "Protesters of Chick-fil-A's anti-LGBT donations are not trying to silence the company, they are doing the opposite - bringing attention to exactly what it is that this company stands for and showing how a growing majority of Americans support their LGBT friends and family members."

Some gay-rights activists are planning "National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A" today. Couples are encouraged to go one of the chicken restaurant's locations and take a photo or video of themselves kissing.

On Wednesday, however, backers of Chick-fil-A waited through long lines to support the fried chicken chain.

Vicki Parsons, a Tustin resident who runs a small Internet technology company in Santa Ana, stood in line with her daughter for an hour and 10 minutes at a Costa Mesa location, but said it was well worth the wait.

"The ability for a company to be able to believe what they want to believe and still have their doors open to whoever wants to or chooses to give their business — that's why I'm here," she said. "Yes, I am a Christian, but my strongest support stems from being a business owner. I want to believe what I want to believe and not be condemned for what I believe, and give people the freedom of choice, if they want to do business with us."

Newport Beach resident Ian Conger cited both business and religion as his reasons for dining Wednesday at the relatively new Costa Mesa location.

"This company is family-owned, and they're putting their money where they want to and that's their right," he said. "Nobody should tell someone how they should spend their money. God is very good to my wife and I, and I feel God's going to be with us through this and he'll be with the opposer as well. He doesn't hate anybody."

Lake Forest resident Deanna Kirchen stood in line with her children to support the restaurant for religious reasons.

"I've been in line for over an hour, and I'm only about three-quarters of the way through," she said. "I'm hungry and yes, we came here for lunch, but I wanted to support Chick-fil-A for having the cojones to stand up for biblical values."

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

Gwilym McGrew, who drove to the fast-food restaurant 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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— Kate Mather, Jenny Stockdale and Shelby Grad

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