Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Buying Food as Political Statement ; Restaurant Chain Turns into Cultural Litmus Test on Same-Sex Marriage

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Buying Food as Political Statement ; Restaurant Chain Turns into Cultural Litmus Test on Same-Sex Marriage

Article excerpt

In Atlanta, where Chick-fil-A got its start in 1946, the company's stated opposition to gay marriage has made spending money at its restaurants a test of views on gay marriage.

CORRECTION APPENDED

The chicken sandwich culture wars are under way, at least here in the city where the Chick-fil-A chain was born in 1946 as a single diner feeding factory workers.

All day long Wednesday, the chain's local restaurants were packed largely with conservative Christians who showed up for a Chick-fil- A appreciation day, an event organized by former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas after critics said the company was anti-gay.

The founder, S. Truett Cathy, built the company on biblical principles, and he and his family have given millions of dollars to organizations trying to stop same-sex marriage.

But it was recent comments by the company's president, Dan T. Cathy, about the biblical injunctions against homosexuality that turned eating at the chain into a kind of cultural litmus test.

For many, it comes down to this: Eating at Chick-fil-A supports heterosexual marriage and religious freedom. Refusing to eat there supports same-sex marriage and equality.

Although the privately held company has a deep Southern identity and a cultlike status among some people, it has grown into a national powerhouse. There are more than 1,600 restaurants in 39 states, with sales last year of $4.1 billion.

On Wednesday, people aligned with the company's views piled into restaurants in several states. At some restaurants in Atlanta, parking was a problem, and a lunch that might have taken five minutes to pick up stretched into a half-hour wait. People in long drive-through lines bought food for the people in the cars behind them, who then did the same for the next car.

"If you are serious about your relationship with Jesus Christ, you just can't be for same-sex marriage," said Corliss Carter, 44, who ate lunch at a restaurant in Marietta, Georgia. "Chick-fil-A has always been a family oriented business. We're just showing our support for them."

Workers at the restaurant declined to comment, instead handing statements to members of the news media that gave a little background on the company and reiterated its intention to treat every person in its restaurants with "honor, dignity and respect," regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. …

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