By Aaron Blevins, 8/02/2012
Protesters clash over marriage equality
The Chick-fil-A in Hollywood was a madhouse on Wednesday, as protestors, supporters and even PETA flocked to the restaurant on Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue in response to comments made by its president, Dan Cathy.
In an interview with the Baptist Press on July 16, Cathy said the company is “very much supportive of the family — the Biblical definition of the family unit.” Chick-fil-A has also been criticized for donating to anti-gay Christian organizations, such as Exodus International, which offers ministries to families impacted by homosexuality.
The comments and donations led to an interesting scene in Hollywood on Wednesday. As the drive-thru line stretched from North McCadden Place to West Sunset Boulevard, protestors lined the southeast corner of Sunset and Highland. Supporters, possibly spurred to action by “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day”, as declared by Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee, turned out to patronize the business.
“I believe in the right to free speech … but it has repercussions,” said West Hollywood resident Brian Hamilton, who held a sign that read, “Cluck off, Chick-Fail-A”. “His hate speech causes harm to the community.”
Dawn Gregg, who planned to eat at the restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Wednesday, said she was showing her support for Cathy expressing his views and using his right to free speech.
“I don’t think his speech was hateful,” Gregg said. “I think his statement has been politicized. …It’s not hate speech to say you’re pro-Biblical marriage.”
James Liu, of Palo Alto, said Cathy was simply expressing his personal beliefs and should not be heckled for it. He said President Barack Obama felt similarly three months ago.
“Where [was] the outrage then?” Liu said, adding that Chick-fil-A does not discriminate against gay employees or customers.
James Valletti, a New York native living in West Hollywood, said he decided to protest after seeing Sarah Palin and Huckabee make headlines for their support of the restaurant. He held a sign that asked, “Who do you think designed your wedding dress?”
“I’ve never eaten here, and I won’t ever,” Valletti said, noticing the honks of some passers-by. “I’m glad that people are recognizing [the protest].”
At one point, Rives Grogan, who said he is a pastor for New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, held a Bible as he argued with proponents of same-sex marriage outside the restaurant. He yelled, “Stop homosexuality!” and “Stop Obama!” as the proponents suggested that he seek psychiatric help.
PETA protestors advised patrons to go vegan.
Though staffers handed out water to protestors and conducted business as usual on Wednesday, all the attention at the local Chick-fil-A location is likely unwanted. Owner Jeremiah Cillpam recently released a letter stating that Cathy did not speak on the behalf of every Chick-fil-A owner.
“We hope those who are upset will look at their relationship with our restaurant, the Hollywood Chick-fil-A, and allow us to continue to serve them,” Cillpam wrote.
He also said that the restaurant has given back to the community, donating various items to schools, at-risk youth organizations, hospitals, police departments and more. Cillpam said the restaurant has also created 150 jobs, many of which are filled by local high school and college students.
“In our hiring practices, we have never and will never discriminate based upon sexual orientation or religious beliefs,” he wrote.
The demonstrations, though, are not likely to cease in the near future. A “National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A” has been scheduled to support same-sex marriage at 5 p.m. on Aug. 3.