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Cody Permenter

Chick-fil-A protests spread to Austin

A nationwide debate has erupted after Dan Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, expressed his views about gay marriage. This resulted in protests such as National Same Sex Kiss Day, which were held in Austin and across the country.
Cody Permenter

A nationwide debate involving a fast food chain has erupted after Dan Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, expressed his views about gay marriage and traditional families on July 16, resulting in praise and criticism from both sides.

Cathy spoke with The Baptist Press for an interview when he said he supported the “biblical definition of family.” Organizations supporting same-sex marriage took Cathy’s comments as bigoted and hateful.

Soon after the comments went viral, Jim Henson Company, owner of The Muppets, pulled out of a partnership with the food chain, where puppets of the Muppet characters would be placed in kid’s meals as toys, and donated the money received by Chick-Fil-A to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Chick-Fil-A had hoped to open a location in Boston, Mass., but when Mayor Thomas Manino got wind of Cathy’s comments he made sure that would not happen. Manino wrote Cathy a letter urging Cathy to back out of plans to open a restaurant in his city. The mayor of Chicago soon followed.

“You called supporters of gay marriage 'prideful.' Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are 'guilty as charged’,” Manino wrote. “We are indeed full of pride for our support of same-sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights.”

The controversy caused two campaigns to occur at nationwide Chick-Fil-A locations. Conservatives, including former GOP presidential candidates Mick Huckabee and Rick Santorum and former vice president candidate Sarah Palin, dubbed August 1 as "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day", which encourage people to support the chain and eat there that day.

Same-sex marriage supporters took to Chick-Fil-A locations on Friday, August 3, for their own protest. Dubbed “National Same Sex Kiss Day”, participants were asked to share an appropriate kiss with a partner of the same sex at any Chick-Fil-A restaurant and take a photo to post to the web. A group of about 50 people showed up at the E. Ben White location to protest with signs which read: “Don’t Be Chicken, Support Equality.”

The University of Texas at Austin currently has two Chick-Fil-A restaurants on the grounds: one in the Student Activity Center, the other in the Texas Union.

Monica Herrera, manager of the Union Chick-Fil-A, said the location has not been effected since the comments were made. Not much activity occurred during either side’s campaign on Wednesday and Friday.

The comments made by Cathy shocked some UT students for the mere fact that it was a fast food chain causing the controversy.

“I think it is foolish and pointless for a company to take a stance on any political subject,” Katie Dickerson, sophomore journalism major, said. “But the great thing about American is that we are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech.”

Some believe just because the owner did not know how to filter his opinions, it does not change the fact that they are a food chain with good food. However, taking a stance on such a controversial topic could result in loss of business.

“I’m not for marriage inequality,” Shelby Wiedrich, sophomore civil engineering major, said. “I personally do not frequently purchase Chick-Fil-A to begin with, but this incident does not encourage me to.”

Those on the conservative end support Cathy’s statements because they believe they were said with “good earnest.” The appreciation day was seen as a good idea because it showed support for the establishment from the right-wing side.

“I feel that no matter if [Cathy] had said [his comments] independently from his business, people would associate his statement with Chick-Fil-A either way and protests would happen,” Mike Gutierrez, senior psychology major, said. “If a homosexual individual is going to boycott Chick-Fil-A then they must do their research and boycott any corporation that has ever been against gay marriage.”

When everything is said and done, many believe the controversy surrounding the fast food chicken chain is a conflicting matter.

“I am holding two opposing thoughts: the right for people to speak freely versus the desire to squash intolerance and hateful speech,” Dickerson said.

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