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Chick-fil-A debate hits Cal Poly

Gay rights groups and others protest outside the Chick-fil-A restaurant at Cal Poly in 2012.
Gay rights groups and others protest outside the Chick-fil-A restaurant at Cal Poly in 2012. The Tribune

About 50 protesters gathered at the only Chick-fil-A restaurant in the county on Friday — a Chick-fil-A Express at Cal Poly — to protest the company president’s recent comments against gay marriage.

The protesters joined a national “Kiss-In” campaign by gay rights advocates, two days after supporters of the Atlanta-based food chain turned out to patronize the business on “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

The locals who gathered Friday hoisted signs with messages such as “Every Meal Served with a Side of Prejudice,” and protesters passed out fliers discouraging people from supporting the chain.

One man holding a sign chanted “Chick-fil-A is anti-gay. We are here and we are queer.” Some people of the same sex kissed outside the eatery in Cal Poly’s food court called “The Avenue.”

“We’re in a political year, and I think that has a lot to do with this,” said Will Russell, the president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast. “We’re here today to support gay marriage and lobby for the right to love and marry who we choose. We oppose Chik-fil-A’s stance and hope they change it.”

This summer, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy made several public statements supporting what he considers the traditional family. Cathy said those who have an “arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about” are inviting God’s judgment upon the nation. Chick-fil-A also has donated millions of dollars to groups that oppose same-sex marriage, according to media reports.

The manager of the Chick-fil-A outlet at Cal Poly, who didn’t want to be identified, estimated that sales tripled Wednesday when supporters turned out. Chick-fil-A officials said they enjoyed record sales from the turnout nationwide, though exact figures weren’t released.

“Many families came out and people in the community who didn’t seem to know we were even here,” the manager said. “I personally avoid the politics. But I support people’s right, however, to hold whatever beliefs they choose and to voice their opinion.”

On Friday, bisexual protester Sandy Peace of Pismo Beach said she believes Cathy’s comments show a fear of change among those who support limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

“The fact that this is gaining so much attention, to me, means that a group that has been privileged is now feeling challenged,” Peace said.

Several protesters referred to President Barack Obama’s recent announcement in support of same-sex marriage as a major rallying cry. He is the first sitting U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage.

Some Cal Poly students at the event said they’d work to inform fellow students of Chick-fil-A’s stance and encourage them to boycott the store when fall classes begin.

“I will never purchase anything at Chick-fil-A again for the rest of my life until they rescind their position,” said Hannah Coleman, a fifth-year biomedical engineering student.

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