Chick-fil-A flap sees calls for action from both sides of same-sex marriage debate

Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta
This July 19, 2012, photo shows a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta.
AP Photo/Mike Stewart

(CBS News) CHICAGO - A fast food chain known for putting Christian principles ahead of profits is facing a culture war over same-sex marriage.

The controversy is prompting politicians and activist groups on both sides of the issue to organize events where like-minded people can demonstrate their discontent.

The Chick-fil-A menu offers sandwiches, nuggets and strips, but critics say it is all served with a side-order of bigotry.

The company's boss has angered gay rights advocates, some politicians - even the Muppets - with his stand against same-sex marriage.

In an interview on The Ken Coleman Show last month, Chick-fil-A President and COO Dan Cathy said, "I think we're inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, you know, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes marriage."'

Cathy added that his company is "very much supporting of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit."

Within days, the Internet was on fire with criticism. Some stores were picketed. The Henson Company pulled its Muppets out of a marketing deal with Chick-fil-A.

And the mayors of Boston and Chicago sounded off.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters, "What the COO has said as it relates to gay marriage and gay couples is not what I believe. But more importantly, it's not what the people of the city of Chicago believe."

Chick-fil-A has 1,600 locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C. and had more than $4 billion in sales last year.

Chicago has one Chick-fil-A franchise and there were plans afoot to build a second.

But city Alderman Joe Moreno says they can forget about getting a permit. "I'm not gonna sit on the sidelines and allow them to come in when I know in my heart that they believe in discriminating against gay people," Moreno says.

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The franchise owner of the lone Chicago Chick-fil-A, Lauren Silich, says hold on: Her store welcomes everyone and has gay employees. "We are open to any sort of lifestyle ... believe what ... you want to believe in and what you do, to me, it really doesn't matter," she says.

Conservatives have rallied to the chain's side.

Radio host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former GOP presidential contender and former Sen. Rick Santorum are urging everyone to patronize their local Chick-fil-A on Wednesday.

Still others wonder whether free speech is at issue here, and whether it's fair to consider action against a company because of the personal beliefs of its boss.

But a group called Equality Illinois is urging gay and lesbian couples to go to their local Chick-fil-A restaurants on Friday, Aug. 3 for a "kiss-in" campaign the group is promoting along with other gay rights organizations nationwide, according to CBS station WBBM.

Equality Illinois is also urging Chicagoans who support gay rights to participate in an "Eat for Love Day" on Wednesday. The organization is urging people to eat at a local restaurant that supports LGBT rights and "is unafraid to show its support for equality for everyone."

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  • Dean Reynolds
    Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.