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Chick-fil-A supporters take stand on gay marriage

Chip Ellis
The drive-thru at the Southridge Chick-fil-A was packed Wednesday afternoon for the company's appreciation day. Many of Wednesday's customers came out to take a stand against gay marriage.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rodney Harvey, president of the gay rights group West Virginia Rainbow Pride, woke up Wednesday morning to find Chick-fil-A bags tucked under his car's windshield wipers and stuffed in his mailbox.

"This isn't about chicken. This is about civil rights," he said.

Wednesday marked Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, which gave people across the country a chance to show their support for the fast food chain's Christian CEO, Dan Cathy, who recently spoke out about his stance against same-sex marriage.

Long lines of supporters filled the Charleston Town Center mall's food court while Chick-fil-A employees had to direct drive-thru traffic at the Southridge location, which served nearly 1,000 more customers than its daily average, according to officials.

A packed Martinsburg Chick-fil-A was evacuated Wednesday afternoon following a bomb threat that police later discovered was a hoax.

Rev. Kay Lowther of Charleston said he chose to have lunch at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday to support the restaurant's biblical beliefs.

"I'm not here because I'm mad at anyone. I'm here because the bible says it's not right. I'll never approve of gay marriage, but I'll keep loving everyone no matter what," he said. "However, I will do my best to convince them otherwise." 

Alan Smith, owner of the Chick-fil-A in the Town Center, has worked for the company for 20 years and met with CEO Dan Cathy just last week.

With gay rights activists scheduling "kiss-ins" at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country Friday and sponsors parting ways with the company since Cathy's statement, Smith said the controversy was not the CEO's intention.

"You could just see on his face that this isn't what he intended to happen," Smith said. "I've known Dan for many years. He just has an innate desire to serve people and be hospitable."

Justin Hersman, of Sissonville, waited in the lengthy drive-thru line Wednesday to make a point.

"Marriage should be between a man and a woman," he said. "It took a lot for [Cathy] as a business owner to stand up for his beliefs."

Donna Barcus ate at the Town Center's Chick-fil-A Wednesday because she's Christian and she "just likes the food." But with her wedding scheduled for the end of the month, she doesn't agree with everything the company believes in.

"As a Christian, I like that they close on Sundays and spread their beliefs. But, I have nothing bad to say about the gay community. I would never put them down," she said.

West Virginia Rainbow Pride members had discussed plans for a "peaceful protest" in response to the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, but chose to ignore the event instead, according to Harvey.

"We decided not to stoop to their level," he said.

Many members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community ate at KFC on Wednesday, which has shown support for gay rights.

"Chick-fil-A has given so much money to support hate groups. If you eat at Chick-fil-A, you're a part of the machine that's creating hate," Harvey said. "It was a sad day to see such a huge turnout."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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