There was a steady flow of more than 100 people at Chick-fil-A on South Michigan Street for lunch Wednesday, most in support of the unofficial, "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." The steady flow continued throughout the day and into the evening.
The nationwide event began on Facebook with a charge from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee when he declared Wednesday, "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," and encouraged people to visit the establishment in support of the company's "biblically based principles."
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association posted on its Website: "I applaud the courage of Cathy and Chick-fil-A to take a bold stand for the biblical definition of marriage between a man and woman in a culture that has grown openly hostile to the Christian faith and its followers. I would like to join with him, and ask that, if you live near one of their restaurants please drop by and let them know how much you appreciate them and their stand," stated Franklin Graham, first vice chairman, president and CEO of the evangelistic association.
Last month, Dan Cathy, the president of Chik-fil-A, told the Baptist Press the company supports "the biblical definition of the family unit."
Many at the local restaurant said they supported the cause.
"They have a right to their own beliefs," said Jennifer Dehart, a South Bend resident who stopped by around 1 p.m. She said the event was really about supporting freedom of speech.
"I think it is important to support any business that stands up for their Christian values," said Barbara Olt, who traveled to South Bend from Grand Haven, Mich. She and her husband were two of many who traveled more than an hour and endured long lines and large crowds to order lunch. Olt said it took about an hour to get her food.
Trish Dagle drove from Grand Rapids to have lunch with friends and family. She and a friend ordered about 12 chicken sandwiches and fries to take with them.
"I support the company because they believe in family values," Dagle said.
Edward Endres, owner and operator of the establishment said the restaurant had record numbers for breakfast and the number of customers increased through lunch.
- Chick-fil-A issued an official statement noting the company does not discriminate against anyone, regardless of their beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, race, or creed. "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena," wrote Steve Robinson, executive vice president of marketing.
Karen Vargo, who forgot about the appreciation day, was surprised to see the large crowd when she arrived to meet her three grandsons and daughter-in-law. Vargo said she does not agree with gay marriage but believes everyone has a right to believe what they want to believe.
"Everyone is allowed to love. I will not judge people for anything they do," she said.
Opposition plans protest
There are those who oppose Cathy's idea of the traditional family and have organized protests around the country.
The gay rights group, GLAAD is asking people to "support equality" and donate the cost of a Chick-fil-A sandwich, via it's website.
According to the site, "National Same Sex Kiss Day" at Chick-fil-A" is Aug. 3.