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Chick-fil-A 'Kiss in' protest small compared to appreciation day

August 4, 2012 |  4:59 am

Chick-fil-A graffiti

A week of debate over the issue of gay marriage ended Friday with a "Kiss Off" organized by gay rights activists at Chick-fil-A restaurants.

Couples sent in photos of themselves kissing at restaurants around the nation to various gay-rights websites. But the protests appeared to draw far fewer people than an event earlier this week in support of the chicken chain.

Huge crowds turned out Wednesday in a show of support for company President Dan Cathy, who ignited a national debate by publicly expressing his opposition to same-sex marriage. Critics have also said the company supports causes harmful to gays and lesbians.

The scene on Friday was much quieter at locations across the Southland.

Among those who came out to support gay marriage at Costa Mesa’s Chick-Fil-A on Friday afternoon was the Rev. Sarah Halverson of Fairview Community Church.

“I felt like it was an important opportunity to stand on behalf of love and inclusion and gay couples,” she said. “Love is love, and God has given us love to be shared.”

She said that although some Christians don’t believe in gay marriage, her understanding of Christianity is that God supports those who find love.

“There are Christians like us at Fairview that think that God gave every human being divine love,” she said.

She respects Cathy’s right to free speech, she said, but also exercised her own right to speak out against what she considers hate speech.

“We have the right to stand in disagreement with another’s speech,” she said.

At a Chick-fil-A in Torrance where vandals painted the words "Tastes Like Hate" on the side of the restaurant Thursday night, the "National Same-Sex Kiss Day" was off to a slow start.

A steady parade of cars made their way into the parking lot as diners strolled in and out of the restaurant. Some held signs that read "Jesus is the only answer." Many said they were there in support of Chick-fil-A and denounced the vandalism.

"It's a civil debate; it has nothing to do with defacing someone's property," said Alfonzo Rachel, 40, a Torrance resident who said he dines at the restaurant regularly.

Cole Donahoo, operator of the Torrance restaurant, declined to comment about Friday's vandalism.

"I'm just trying to operate a business," he said.

Donahoo said he did see a great turnout at the restaurant, at 182nd Street and Hawthorne Boulevard, for Wednesday's national "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" event, championed by conservative talk show host Mike Huckabee.

Denise Spencer, who visited the restaurant Friday, said that she was sad to see the vandalism and that it hurt the message of tolerance that gay marriage proponents are pushing.

"The president of the company has the right to say what he feels, just like gays and lesbians do, but when you destroy someone's property ... it only creates negativity," Spencer said.

Torrance police detectives were investigating the vandalism.

“There are no leads at this time,” said Sgt. Jennifer Uyeda. “There are security cameras outside the building and we’re trying to retrieve [video from] those right now.”

-- Lauren Williams in Costa Mesa, Ruben Vives in Torrance and Rosanna Xia in Los Angeles

Photo: Workers paint over graffiti left by vandals on a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Torrance. Credit: Sandy Mazza / Daily Breeze