Linin' up for chikin' and takin' a stand
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 2, 2012 1:46 PM
Patrons stand in a long line as they wait to order lunch at the Chick-fil-A on Berkeley Boulevard early Wednesday afternoon. The store was busy all day as local residents gathered for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
The chicken sandwich "wasn't anything to write home about."
The waffle fries were not her "cup of tea."
But two things left Missy Blackburn feeling satisfied as she wrapped up her first-ever trip to Chick-fil-A.
"I must admit, I do love this milkshake," the 64-year-old said, placing her lips around a long straw to take another pull off the cool concoction. "And I feel good about the message I sent to my community. Marriage is, and should always be, between one man and one woman. I didn't make the rules. God did."
Some showed up for breakfast.
Others waited nearly an hour for lunch.
And one man, Ricky Washington, vowed to eat all three meals at the Berkeley Boulevard restaurant Wednesday to "prove a point."
"Gay marriage is not natural and I think the head of Chick-fil-A was spot on about what is gonna happen to our country if we allow it," he said. "The people who came down on him should watch themselves. They are bringing God's wrath upon us, and that's a scary proposition if you ask me."
It started with an interview -- with Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy weighing in, to The Baptist Press and other news organizations, on same sex marriage.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that," he said last month. "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,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about."
His words drew the ire of many gay rights activists and people across the country who characterized his stance as homophobic.
But many, including former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee backed Cathy.
The former Arkansas governor created a Facebook page dubbing Aug. 1 "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" and encouraged his supporters to "affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse."
And if the lack of parking spots, visible crowds and jammed drive-through were any indication, many Wayne County residents obliged.
"Forget about the gay marriage thing for a minute. Let's talk about freedom of speech," said Justin Wilkins, a 32-year-old who drove in from Snow Hill to show his support. "Why can't a guy say something in this country without the liberals calling for a boycott?"
Mary Watson agreed.
"Don't take away a man's livelihood or make him a target because he's Christian," she said. "Ever since Obama got into office, the liberals have declared war on our kind. The last time I checked, America was founded by Christians like Mr. Cathy. Well, am I wrong?"
Some of her neighbors disagree.
"This has nothing to do with freedom of speech and it has nothing to do with Christianity," said Trudy Thompson, a single mother who lives less than a mile from the Berkeley Boulevard Chick-fil-A. "This is about discrimination. If Dan Cathy had come out against blacks marrying whites -- if he had said women shouldn't have the right to vote or blacks shouldn't be able to own property -- there would be riots in the street. I'm not gay, but I would like to think that if I were, I would still be protected by the right to pursue happiness.
"People who are against gay marriage are no better than people who were against civil rights."
Ms. Thompson was not alone.
Roger Wade said he was "disgusted" when he heard that Chick-fil-A was "packed" Wednesday.
"It would be one thing if people were going out there to defend the man's right to say what he said, but let's get real," he said. "If you ask me, this was their way of slamming gay people. And let me tell you something buddy, I'm a Christian, and there ain't nothing Christian about persecuting people for who they are."
His girlfriend, Wendy Shackleford, agreed.
"Shame on this town and this country for using God for hate," she said. "I was raised in the church and we were taught to love our neighbors. And in school they told us we were all created equal. When did that change? Why do we always have to find someone to persecute?"