Tens of thousands of people ordered chicken sandwiches off Chick-fil-A menus across the United States to show support for the fast food chain and its president Wednesday.
Customers lined up at the drive through and inside of LaGrange’s Lafayette Parkway location throughout most of the afternoon. The Commerce Avenue store also was crowded until well after 6 p.m., the restaurant’s director of operations said.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called it “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” a call for national response to the backlash against the restaurants and its management.
“We’re simply asking people to eat chicken and not to be one when it’s time to take a stand,” Huckabee wrote on a Facebook page he created announcing the event. “Our appreciation is not only for the views of Dan Cathy, but for his right to have them and express them freely.”
The controversy began after an interview with Chick-fil-A president and COO, Dan Cathy, appeared in The Baptist Press on July 16. He vocalized his views on family and same-sex marriage.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
On the Facebook event page, more than 620,000 people said they planned to participate.
Chelsea Bunn saw the event announcement and attended, traveling from Valley, Ala., to LaGrange for lunch with her 3-year-old son in support of the company president’s principles.
“I am just proud that the owner is strong in his beliefs,” she said.
Bunn, a Chic-fil-A customer of more than 8 years, said she is surprised by the controversy currently surrounding the fast food chain restaurant.
“He was asked a question and merely gave his opinion,” she said. “It seems to have spiraled out of control.”
A vice president of the company said the day was not created by Chick-fil-A.
“We appreciate all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time,” Steve Robinson said in a statement. “Our goal is simple: to provide great food, genuine hospitality and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Supporters of same-sex marriage protested Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day donating what they would have spent on one of the restaurant’s meals, about $6.50, to gay and lesbian rights groups, according to GLAAD, The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
The organization is promoting a “National Same-Sex Kiss Day” to take place Friday at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide and encouraging participants to post photos online.