OSWEGO, Ill. (CBS) — While the Chick-Fil-A controversy has largely fallen out of the headlines, the opening of a new franchise in Oswego still drew a throng of protesters who support same-sex marriage rights.
About three dozen protestors stood along Route 34 in front of the new Chick-Fil-A in the Kendall County town, which opened Thursday morning with its customary free chicken promotion. They waived American and rainbow pride flags, holding signs encouraging commuters to ‘Honk for Equality,’ and proclaiming that ‘God loves all his children.’
The protest, said organizer Becky Gipson, is aimed at raising awareness against the company and its president, Dan Cathy, who has made several public statements against gay marriage
“The profits from Chick-fil-A are being donated to fight against marriage equality,” said Gipson. “We just want people to know where their money is going.”
Gipson, who is both a lesbian and a Christian, said she was moved to action when she heard about the new franchise opening in Oswego. Her family and friends, as well as community members came out to support her cause, carrying signs and cheering as cars honked in support.
Another half-dozen protesters stood at the edge of the property line, holding signs condemning the gay-rights advocates and denouncing “homosexuals.”
Police stood watch between the two groups.
But most people just stood in line for chicken.
Cars filled the restaurant’s parking lot and two drive-in lanes and chicken lovers walked past protesters without a glance in their direction Thursday afternoon.
“I don’t mind,” said protester Jim Lausier. “I think they’re just here for chicken, not to make a political statement. We’re just hoping to make people aware of where their money is going.”
And protesters admitted that the smell of fried chicken in the air was noticeable, if not a little distracting.
“Here’s the bad thing. I love their food,” said Davin DeToni of Sandwich, who attended the rally with his boyfriend. “I’d eat their every day if it didn’t contribute to anti-gay causes. The CEO can have his own opinion, but using money from the company to fund hate groups, that’s what’s wrong.”
In a widely-publicized article profiling the company last month on the Christian news site Baptist Press, Cathy is quoted as saying Chick-Fil-A is ” very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
He also says “guilty as charged” in response to comments about Chick-Fil-A being supportive of “the traditional family.”
In an earlier radio interview, Cathy expounded on his personal views: “I think we are 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,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Gay rights activists have also taken issue with Chick-Fil-A over revelations some time back that the company has donated millions of dollars to organizations that oppose gay rights – including groups that practice “reparative therapy.”
Chicago was among the epicenters of the Chick-Fil-A controversy earlier this month, when Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) said he would not grant a zoning permit for Chick-Fil-A to open a second Chicago city location in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue. While Cathy’s comments have been presented as being only his personal views, Moreno said last week that he is unconvinced that Chick-Fil-A will not discriminate against the LGBT community.
In the wake of the criticism against the company, supporters of Chick-Fil-A turned out in droves for a “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” sponsored by former Arkansas governor and onetime Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Two days after that, same sex couples and their supporters descended on Chick-Fil-A locations in Chicago and elsewhere for a “kiss-in.”
And while the controversy has fallen out of national headlines, it remains very much alive in Chicago’s gay community. This past weekend, D.S. Tequila, a restaurant-bar at 3352 N. Halsted St. on the Boystown strip, was showcasing a banner urging passersby to boycott Chick-Fil-A, which the banner referred to as “Chick-Fil-th.”
But views on Chick-Fil-A vary greatly across the Chicago area. At a Gary Lakeshore Railcats game in Northwest Indiana, the Chick-Fil-A cow mascot was met only with throngs of youngsters looking for photo ops as the company sponsored a Faith and Family Day at the minor league ballpark.
The Aurora Beacon-News contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)