Chick-fil-A marriage fight rallies conservative activists, others
After facing days of criticism over its chief's executive's public stance against gay marriage, Chick-fil-A saw a flood of supporters converge on its locations on Wednesday.
In Los Angeles, some Tea Party groups and conservative activists organized visits to back the CEO and his stand. But others showed up at the stores as well. Scores of people lined up outside a Northridge Chick-fil-A on Wednesday afternoon.
Gwilym McGrew, who drove to the fast-food restarauant 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."
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."
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.
— Kate Mather