Voting with appetite on marriage
The culture war met chicken sandwiches on Wednesday, as hundreds of local folks swarmed the area’s only Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant — a few weeks after the chicken chain’s president touched off a media firestorm by speaking out strongly against gay marriage.
People began lining up at the store before 11 a.m., creating a serpentine string that stretched out the door and all along the length of the building. Dozens of cars formed a line that began in the drive-through lane, but continued around corners and into nearby streets. Police were called in to direct traffic at the intersection of Rimrock Avenue and U.S. Highway 6 & 50. Adjacent parking lots filled with cars.
As for why everyone turned out, a common refrain could be heard often amid the conservative crush: “I am here to show my support for Chick-fil-A.”
The huge turnout was apparently part of a national call for Aug. 1 to be “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” an idea formed in response to a movement by gay and lesbian advocacy groups to boycott the restaurant in the wake of comments by Dan Cathy, the president and chief operating officer of the chain, which is based in Atlanta.
And while the issue of gay marriage was certainly part of the conversation on Wednesday, more people than not expressed that free speech concerns were top of mind.
“I think that you ought to be able to say what you think, and make a statement without having it held against you, and ruin your company,” said Barbara Gwiazdowski of Grand Junction. “For me, it’s more about free speech without retribution.”
Sandy Carosella of Grand Junction owns a nearby business and waited almost an hour in the drive-through line.
“I think a company that stands up for what it believes is fantastic. I support these guys,” she said.
Sharon TenNapel drove from the Delta area just to make her statement by standing in line.
“It’s a wonderful business, they do a lot of good for the community. They haven’t done anything wrong. They are willing to serve anybody, and they don’t discriminate,” she said.
Clearly, though, most folks were sympathetic to Cathy’s religious argument against homosexual marriage.
Rex Cornwell was handing out brochures for his church, Valley Church of Christ.
“People are saying, look, we as a people stand with God. God has spoken on the issue, and these people are basically saying, we agree,” he said.
“I want to support them, and I also believe in the biblical view of marriage, so I’m here to support that, too,” said Tyler Nelson of Grand Junction.
Ronda Park of Grand Junction brought her family on Wednesday and waited in the drive-through line with all the others.
“All (Dan Cathy) did was state that he believed in traditional values. And we believe in that, too,” she said.
Louise Richards of Grand Junction sympathized with Cathy’s comments as well.
“I don’t think (what he said) was extreme. It was his beliefs. So what? It’s my belief, too. Why can’t he talk about it?” she wondered.
Cathy sparked the controversy last month when he appeared on a radio show and was quoted as saying, “We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ ”
Cathy later told the Baptist Press newspaper that he was “guilty as charged” when asked if he was defending traditional marriage with his statements.
Employees, as well as the restaurant’s owner, Kevin Brock, calmly and efficiently waited on everyone and furiously filled orders throughout the day. No one was made available, however, to comment for this story.
As polarizing as the issue of gay marriage is, a number of counter-efforts are being organized in response to “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”
Local restaurant Pablo’s Pizza posted to its Facebook page Wednesday that it’s having a “Kiss Your Loved One” promotion at their Main Street Grand Junction location today. Anyone can bring in a “loved one,” kiss them at the counter and receive $5 off their medium or large pizza.
And elsewhere, according to the Associated Press, opponents of Cathy’s comments have planned a “Kiss Mor Chiks” event — a play off of the company’s advertising campaign — for Friday, where people of the same sex are being asked to smooch outside of Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide.