Chick-fil-A gains local support for traditional marriage and family unit


By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent |
August 01. 2012 11:00PM

Customers formed a long line Wednesday at the Chick-fil-A's Appreciation Day, designed to promote support for the company's president, and marriage between a man and a woman. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)







NASHUA — Hundreds of patrons arrived at the Pheasant Lane Mall on Wednesday eager to support Chick-fil-A's president and his controversial statements supporting the “biblical definition of the family unit.”

The large crowd of traditional marriage supporters was unaware that the franchise manager of Chick-fil-A in Nashua, Anthony Picolia, is helping to sponsor New Hampshire Pride Fest, a celebration of gay rights being held later this month in Manchester.

“That is too bad,” said Bob O'Meara of Nashua, who arrived at the mall around 11:30 a.m. to join about 400 other people who were there to participate in Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

O'Meara was one of many patrons who was not familiar with Picolia's support for the gay pride festival, saying the local Chick-fil-A manager has “gone astray.”

While O'Meara admits that it is Picolia's right to support whatever initiatives he desires, O'Meara stressed that he will continue to respect the hundreds of people who showed up on Wednesday in favor of traditional values such as marriage between a man and a woman.

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, which was held across the nation, was an idea spearheaded by Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee and promoted by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum to support the company's president, Dan Cathy.

Cathy and his organization have been under fire from gay rights groups after Cathy told The Baptist Press that the fast-food establishment is “very much supportive of the family,” elaborating on his quote as “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

“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 went on to tell a Christian radio show. “And I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

O'Meara was one of several people on Wednesday to say they respect Cathy for speaking out and not backing down from societal pressures.

Tom and Robin Elkins of Leominster, Mass., arrived to quietly protest the activists that are attempting to silence Cathy from speaking his opinion, they said.

“We just want an equal platform in the theater of ideas,” said Tom Elkins, explaining he is not anti-gay, but is pro-family. “We are hoping we are part of the general consensus.”

Kendra and Mike Sullivan brought their three children to the mall, waiting in line more than an hour for their lunch. The couple said they were pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who showed up to support marriage between a man and a woman, and the freedom of speech.

The Sullivans, of Auburn, say Cathy has a right to voice his opinion, just as the local franchise owner also has a right to sponsor the upcoming gay pride festival.

“I have gay friends, but it is still my belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman,” said Kendra Sullivan while holding her sleeping child and eating Chick-fil-A food.

Another New Hampshire resident, Edna Hull, traveled from Londonderry to visit the Nashua Chick-fil-A and make a statement.

“Yes, I support traditional marriage, and we are a Christian family, but the most important issue here — in my mind — is free speech. We will wait as long as it takes for our food,” said Hull.

In a statement released by organizers of New Hampshire Pride Fest, Picolia said that in his personal and professional life, he has had and continues to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,” Picolia said in the statement. “Chick-fil-A at Pheasant Lane Mall has gay employees and serves gay customers with honor, dignity and respect. We also don't discriminate in giving back to the Nashua community, donating to a wide variety of causes.”

He challenged individuals to speak with him before making assumptions or boycotting his restaurant.

Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, also issued a statement on the organization's website regarding the Chick-fil-A controversy surrounding marriage equality, saying the establishment has “every right to alienate as many customers as they want.”

“But, consumers and communities have every right to speak up when a company's president accuses them of 'inviting God's judgment' by treating their LGBT friends, neighbors and family members with respect,” said Graddick.

On Friday, supporters of same-sex marriage have planned a kiss-in event at Chick-fil-A's across the nation, in which same-sex couples are encouraged to publicly display their affection.

khoughton@newstote.com
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