Photos by Ned Jilton II.
KINGSPORT — Chicken was served Wednesday with a side of controversy as hundreds packed Chick-fil-A on East Stone Drive to support the company’s stance against same-sex marriage.
“I’m here to show that it is all right to stand up for what you believe in,” said Lydia Horner of Blountville, who heard about the “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” movement on Facebook.
Officers from the Kingsport Police Department Traffic Division had to be called in to handle the congestion.
The social media gathering was sparked by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who called for a day of support for the Georgia-based business following CEO Dan Cathy’s anti-gay marriage comments last month. Wednesday’s event brought out both sides of the issue across the country.
Cathy told the Baptist Press on July 16: “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.’”
While in Kingsport customers lined up nearly a half mile down Stone Drive in their vehicles, some Chick-fil-A locations were met with pro-gay protesters. More protest events were planned for Friday at those same locations with “National Same Sex Kiss Day” co-organized by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
The group also tried to counteract the Huckabee social storm with their “Skip the Sandwich” suggestion of donating the average cost of a chicken sandwich combo, $6.50, to their coffers.
“Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBT stance goes well beyond simply opposing marriage equality,” said a statement on GLAAD’s media center Web site. “They have given millions of dollars to anti-LGBT organizations, including those that have been designated ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and those that push so-called ‘ex-gay’ therapy, which has been denounced by the mainstream medical and mental health community.”
“I’m here for Christian values,” said Leslie Stevens of Kingsport. “And I’m here to make a declaration. As Christians we hate the sin and love the sinner. We support that. We are not condemning, but we hope that God’s love shows them the way.”
Kimberly Lawson of Blountville also stopped in for a sandwich Wednesday. The choice of chicken had become personal for the salon supplier.
Lawson was de-friended on her Facebook account by her supervisor, who she said is gay, because she posted a message supporting Chick-fil-A. She later deleted the message after her superior asked her to take it off her account.
“I went to my knees and said, ‘Lord, this is yours. This will work to your glory, and if it means losing my job is a testimony to someone to stand up for what you believe is more important than conforming to the ways of the world.’ Me and my boss have since talked, and we are on good terms because he knows where I stand on my beliefs,” Lawson said.
Horner said she was proud to buy a meal from the chicken company Wednesday but wondered why the controversy had just begun.
“This is a company that has closed its doors on Sunday for years so that their employees can either go to church or spend time with their families. Did (pro-gay proponents) really not know where Chick-fil-A stood all this time?” she said.