'I am gay and I support Chick-fil-A,' California teen says
A day after hundreds of local residents took part in the so-called Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, another California Chick-fil-A supporter added his voice to the ongoing national debate surrounding the fast-food restaurant.
"I am gay and I support Chick-fil-A," 19-year-old Redding resident Matt Perez wrote in a CNN iReport.
Perez goes on to say Chick-fil-A Chief Executive Dan Cathy has been "unfairly attacked" for a recent interview in which Cathy said he and his company were against gay marriage. The comments drew strong reactions as customers pledged to boycott the chain and some mayors proclaimed they would not allow Chick-fil-A to open within their cities.
"As a gay man, I say let him not support gays," Perez writes. "When the gay community and gay activist groups push on anti-gay people and organizations to change their minds and opinions via bullying or forced involvement, I fear it would make whatever accomplishments taste cheap like a greasy coin."
Perez went on to say business owners like Cathy have a right to express their religious beliefs, and city officials who disagree should not ban the businesses.
"How would you feel if Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, a well known Republican and Christian, told all gay business owners and workers that they could not get a job in the state because their beliefs did not match the beliefs of the state?" he continues. "We would call it unfair and a violation of our civil rights. Why then is it okay for a mayor to tell a company they cannot open business in the city simply because our beliefs differ?"
The fast-food restaurant, already the subject of recent debate, drew headlines again Wednesday after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared the day "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," calling on people to eat at the restaurant to show support.
Those who ate at restaurants in Southern California on Wednesday listed a variety of reasons for their participation.
Gwilym McGrew said he came to the Northridge 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."
"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 a Chick-fil-A in Laguna Niguel.
"Plus," he told The Times, "the food's pretty good."
Lake Forest resident Deanna Kirchen stood in line with her children at a Costa Mesa Chick-fil-A for religious reasons.
"I've been in line for over an hour, and I'm only about three-quarters of the way through," she told The Daily Pilot. "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."
Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing for Chick-fil-A, said in a statement that although the company would not release exact sales numbers, Wednesday's totals were "unprecedented."
"We are very grateful and humbled by the incredible turnout of loyal Chick-fil-A customers on Aug. 1 at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country," Robinson said. "We congratulate local Chick-fil-A owner/operators and their team members for striving to serve each and every customer with genuine hospitality."
Customer service was something Perez touched on in his report, who said although he doesn’t support the company’s beliefs, he does “love Chick-fil-A as a place to get good-tasting food.”
"Personally they have never treated me any different as a gay man and I will continue to do business with them so long as that holds true,” he wrote.
But the demonstrations don't appear to be stopping any time soon. Gay rights supporters are planning "National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A" on Friday, where couples are encouraged to go to the fast-food restaurant's locations and take a photo or video of themselves kissing.
— Kate Mather
Photo: Hundreds of customers line up Wednesday to get in the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Laguna Niguel to support the company. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times