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Gay-rights supporters plan kissing protest at Chick-fil-A

August 2, 2012 |  5:16 am

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in Laguna Niguel

This post has been corrected, as noted below.

"Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," an event Wednesday in which supporters converged on the fast-food establishment to back its  chief executive's controversial stance on gay marriage, is not the end of the controversy.

Gay rights supporters are planning a "National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A" on Friday. As part of the event, couples are encouraged to go one of the chicken restaurant's locations and take a photo or video of themselves kissing.

"Let's show Chick-fil-A thanks for their support of Love, Equality, and the Real Definition of Marriage! Invite your friends!" organizers said on its Facebook page.

Gay rights advocates on Wednesday also suggested that supporters eat at KFC instead of Chick-fil-A.

On Wednesday, much of the attention was focused on supporters of the embattled eatery.

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 Wednesday in support, including at a Northridge Chick-fil-A.

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 could order food.

Earlier Wednesday, more than a dozen people stood outside the Northridge Chick-fil-A, waving American flags and holding signs: "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.

[For the record, 7:10 a.m., Aug. 2: An earlier version of this post and headline incorrectly stated that the protest was organized by the gay rights group GLAAD. It was organized by grass-roots activists, but is supported and promoted by GLAAD. GLAAD is also supporting -- but not organizing -- an effort to eat at KFC instead of Chick-fil-A.]

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-- Kate Mather and Shelby Grad

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

Photo: Hundreds of customers line up at the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Laguna Niguel. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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