On Aug. 1 and 3, the Kentlands Chick-fil-A was among many of the company‚Äôs 1,614 restaurants to serve as a backdrop to demonstrations on gay marriage and the geography of American free speech. The activity arose as a response to recent remarks made by Chick-fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy.
The chain‚Äôs founding family members are devout Christians, and religion has influenced the management and development of the chain since its inception in Georgia in the 1960s. Chick-fil-A is the only national fast food chain closed on Sundays.
On July 16, Cathy had this to say to a reporter from a Christian news service: ‚ÄúAs an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be ‚Ä¶ based on biblical principles, asking God ‚Ä¶ to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And he has blessed us.‚ÄĚ
When Cathy replied, ‚Äúguilty as charged,‚ÄĚ to a later question about whether he and his family-owned restaurant chain financially assist groups that promote the ‚Äúbiblical definition of a family unit,‚ÄĚ public reaction was almost immediate.
The controversy roiled at many Chick-fil-A locations around the nation in the first week of August, but things were quiet in Kentlands. People on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage issue did come to the restaurant, one group on Wednesday (proclaimed ‚ÄúChick-fil-A Appreciation Day‚ÄĚ by former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee) and one on Friday, to stand up for their beliefs.
When this reporter stopped by on Aug. 1, the Kentlands restaurant was full, bustling, and there were about two-dozen customers waiting on line outside. Gaithersburg resident Kumu Dreier said he was there ‚Äúto support Chick-fil-A.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThey shouldn‚Äôt be discriminated against. The company does not discriminate against customers or employees,‚ÄĚ said Dreier.
Eileen Bottamiller of Brookeville brought her two young grandchildren to the restaurant as a way to make a statement. ‚ÄúI believe in marriage between two people [of the opposite sex.] I have two children and two grandchildren because of the institution.‚ÄĚ
Maria Dunn of Derwood was also waiting in the outside line. ‚ÄúI am here because I believe people should be able to do business where they want to do business ‚ÄĒ regardless of religious beliefs.‚ÄĚ
Cindy Phu, a Gaithersburg resident, said she was at the restaurant to demonstrate ‚Äúsupport against gay marriage.‚ÄĚ
Inside, Kentlands Chick-fil-A franchise owner Brian Summers said business had been two or three times normal volume. He said he would welcome protestors, if they came, no matter their opinions.
‚ÄúWe look forward to serving all of our customers with respect, dignity and honor.‚ÄĚ He smiled, adding, ‚ÄúI just want to sell chicken and milk shakes.‚ÄĚ
On Aug. 3, seven supporters of same-sex marriage and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community protested in front of Chick-Fil-A on what some national organizers called ‚ÄúNational Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A.‚ÄĚ
The group‚Äôs members said, among other things, they oppose Cathy‚Äôs views on gay marriage.
Zoe Braunstein and Selin Demir, both recent Wootton High School graduates and now college-bound, were first on the scene in the afternoon. They stood outside Chick-fil-A holding large poster signs, waving to dozens of drivers and pedestrians who went by as the hours wore on. At their feet, two cold bottles of water ‚ÄĒ a gift from Summers ‚ÄĒ sweated at their feet.
‚ÄúA lot of people think this is just about gay marriage,‚ÄĚ said Demir, whose sign read: ‚ÄúLove Thy ‚ÄėGay-bor.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThis has to do with equality and freedom. It‚Äôs about treating everyone the same.‚ÄĚ