Judging by the hundreds standing in line Wednesday, a passerby might have thought the Chick-fil-A near Fox Valley Mall was giving away food, but the crowd was actually there to support the chain restaurant and its CEO’s vocal opposition to gay marriage.
After recent criticism toward Chick-fil-A and its president Dan Cathy, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee dubbed Aug. 1 as “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on his Facebook page, which brought supporters out in droves to the Aurora location near the Naperville border.
By 2 p.m., many customers had been waiting in line outside for two to three hours while bearing temperatures in the high 80s. Cars also packed the parking lot and zigzagged from the drive-thru windows out into the street.
Some customers said they didn’t dine at the restaurant often, but decided to come out on Wednesday to support its president and “the right to free speech.”
“We don’t usually eat out very much, but we came out to support them today,” said Aurora resident Anne Canning. “There’s nothing anti-gay about it. (Cathy’s) expressing his view as an American that he sees marriage as defined in the Bible between a man and a woman. It’s nothing to do with hating people at all. This is simply about a right to free speech and religion.”
Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy has faced backlash from gay rights activists after his recent comments supporting the “Biblical definition” of marriage between a man and a woman.
"We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said in a Baptist Press interview. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
While there were only two supporters of same-sex marriage in attendance Wednesday at the Aurora location, the picketers said the strength was within their message.
“I’ve never picketed for anything in my life, this is my first time, but I was damn mad,” said Indiana resident Judy Shaw, who is visiting her daughter in Naperville. “My daughter is gay and has a partner of 11 years and they have two beautiful children and they want the same rights that everyone else has.”
Shaw said people were very supportive of her as she sat at the parking lot entrance of Chick-fil-A with a sign supporting gay marriage, but Shaw also said she was cursed at by other customers.
“People have been very supportive, but others have been very nasty,” she said. “I’ve heard some of the nastiest language that I’ve ever heard in my life today.”
Kent Williams Jr., a Lisle resident, spotted Shaw after he was getting lunch at a nearby restaurant and joined her in protesting the restaurant’s views. Shaw had been outside the restaurant since 11 a.m. and said her daughter planned on meeting her to protest during the dinner rush as well.
“I just cannot believe the bigotry that (my daughter and her partner) suffer, I just cannot believe it,” she said. “Until you experience it, you have no idea what they go through.”