Long lines were popping up everywhere around the Triangle at Chick-fil-A drive-thrus. If you just wanted to pull in quick for some Chick, yesterday wasn't the day. Yesterday was the backlash against the backlash.
And it was also something that people were intensely interested in talking about. Our story has more than 250 comments, as liberals and conservatives argued over ........ a chain of chicken joints. Everything is political these days, even nuggets.
For the record, I have eaten at Chick-fil-A for a long time because the restaurant in Garner is just far enough from my Clayton home to make me rationalize stopping there on the way from work. I'm not making a political statement. I'm just a sucker for waffle fries.
There is no public relations consultant on the planet who would have told Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, to stir things up by making statements against gay marriage. OK. Maybe you can find one, somewhere. Not many.
Most companies try to avoid getting into the middle of stuff. It is hard enough being in business. Companies offend customers and potential customers every day, just in the course of doing business.
The recent Chick-fil-A controversy is not new. It is just louder. Chick-fil-A has been been catching heat from gay activist groups for several years because of its funding, through its charitable arm, of what they call anti-gay groups. This story has been around.
What seems to have brought things to a boil was Dan Cathy, son of Truett Cathy, who started his first restaurant in 1946. Dan Cathy did a couple of interviews recently, one with a Baptist publication and one with a radio talk show, in which he affirmed his belief in marriage being only between a man and a woman. I read the interview and listened to the radio program. His comments came in the context of a wider-ranging set of interviews. But he did say on the radio show:
“(W)e’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. 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.”
That's going a little beyond just saying, well, "I sincerely believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, because that's consistent with my religious beliefs, but we are committed as a company to treating all people equally, whether they are customers or employees, and we don't tolerate discrimination." Something like that.
That was in the middle of July.
Now, I am pretty sure that the folks who have been critical of Chick-fil-A have been paying close attention to Dan Cathy and what he says in various forums, because his mid-July comments went viral in the blogosphere and then into the media. Politicians in a bunch of cities started denouncing him and making it clear, in a number of northern cities, that they didn't welcome Chick-fil-A's expansion into their towns. This, in turn, infuriated conservatives, who began rallying around Chick-fil-A. Hence the long lines at the restaurants.
When a corporate executive starts warning that God's wrath is going to come down on us if we don't cut out this gay marriage stuff, that's going to get attention. Most corporate executives will never, ever say anything that interesting or evocative, particularly about hot-button issues.
Some will say that maybe this will benefit Chick-fil-A, which had a pretty good day yesterday, as supporters around the country flocked to the restaurants. All over the Triangle, folks were eatin' mor chikin.
We'll have to see. There will probably be a bunch of college campuses where Chick-fil-A won't be welcome, reminiscent of what happened to ROTC before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed. Surely, Chick-fil-A will lose customers who are gay, or who are supporters of gay marriage.
But this is a company that goes its own way, which is why its outlets are closed on Sunday.