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Chick-fil-A president's gay marriage comments ignite media firestorm

Published: Friday, July 20 2012 4:43 p.m. MDT

This Thursday, July 19, 2012 photo shows a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. Gay rights advocates were surprised Thursday that the president of the Atlanta-based chain has taken a public position against same-sex marriage. Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said this week that his privately owned company is "guilty as charged" in support of what he called the biblical definition of the family unit. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Mike Stewart, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Type in Chick-fil-A into any search engine today and the top item won't be directions to the nearest restaurant or the popular fast-food chain's Wikipedia page.

Instead, you will find reaction — and there has been a lot of it — to the company president's condemnation of same-sex marriage earlier this week.

In a July 16 story in the Baptist Press, Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A's president and chief operating officer, said the company is "guilty as charged," when asked about its position against same-sex marriage.

"We are 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.

"We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that," Cathy emphasized.

"We intend to stay the course," he said. "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

The following day, Cathy reiterated his stance, though in more inflammatory terms, in a radio interview, saying that those advocating for same-sex marriage will bring "God's judgment" upon us.

"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,’ ” Cathy said. "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."

The reaction was explosive from all sides of the debate.

Same-sex marriage proponents have called for boycotts of the restaurant chain, which has more than 1,600 locations around the country. Even Boston Mayor Thomas Menino waded into the debate, vowing to block Chick-fil-A from opening a franchise in his city.

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” he said.

Washington Post leadership blogger Jena McGregor questioned the business sense of Cathy's comments.

"When a business leader elects to take a public and vocal position on a hot-button political issue in an election year, he or she also risks losing the support of many of its customers," McGregor wrote. "It is one thing to be an organization that 'operate(s) on biblical principles' — staying closed on Sundays, making donations to groups it supports, remaining debt-free. But it is quite another to imply that people who support same-sex marriage — many of whom are surely customers — have a 'prideful, arrogant attitude.’ ”

Others came to Cathy's defense, like Republican Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania commended Cathy for "exalting the family structure."

Jonathan Merritt for the Atlantic questioned the effectiveness of boycotts and concluded: "in a society that desperately needs healthy public dialogue, we must resist creating a culture where consumers sort through all their purchases (fast food and otherwise) for an underlying politics not even expressed in the nature of the product itself."

And a piece on the Media Research Center's website blasted one anti-Cathy blogger for mangling the Bible in a tirade against Cathy.

"For (Huffington Post contributor Domenick Scudera) and his cohorts, any corporate opposition to gay marriage is tantamount to heresy which must be quashed at any cost. Even if they have to display stunning biblical ignorance in order to do so," wrote Paul Wilson and Joe and Betty Anderlik.

Meanwhile, Chic-fil-A responded to the blacklash with a comment on its Facebook page, suggesting it won't be making any comments about same-sex marriage.

"Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."

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