Crowds come in droves to support Chick-fil-A

By noon Wednesday, lines at the Chick-fil-A on Englar Road and Md. 140 began forming outside the door. By 1 p.m., the line began to circle the building.

Crowds waited over a half hour to buy a meal from a fast-food chain which has become the center of a gay marriage controversy.

After CEO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, said in an interview a little over three weeks ago that he did not support gay marriage, the company has faced a backlash from supporters of marriage equality.

In response, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee proclaimed Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." Meanwhile, Friday has been designated "National Same-Sex Kiss Day," by the gay rights group, GLAAD.

Carroll County is home to two Chick-fil-A's; one in TownMall and another just off of Englar Road.

A manager at the Chick-fil-A in TownMall said she expected a 12 to 15 percent increase in business for the day.

Jean Yates, a manager at Christian bookstore The Mustard Seed in TownMall, put a sign up in the window a few days prior to support Chick-fil-A on Wednesday.

"So often we've been quiet and I think it's just wonderful that the community, which I think is a good community, is supporting them," Yates said.

Two delegates from the Maryland House of Delegates came to the Englar Road Chick-fil-A around lunchtime to show their support. Del. Nancy Stocksdale, R-District 5A, said she came to support the business, traditional marriage and freedom of speech.

"I think it shows the flip side, how the majority of people feel," Stocksdale said.

Vanessa Bowling, a representative from Equality Maryland, which supports marriage equality, said the organization is not taking a stance on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

"We're not attacking a business," Bowling said. "We don't want anyone to think that anyone is going after Chick-fil-A."

Instead, Bowling said a Maryland resident began a social media campaign on Facebook for supporters of marriage equality to donate the cost of a Chick-fil-A combo meal - about $6.50 - to a group which supports marriage equality. She said a resident began the group because there has been an outpouring of donations toward those against equal rights for the gay, lesbian, transgender and queer community.

"We understand that they have a freedom of speech to do and say whatever they want," Bowling said.

What began as a fight over marriage equality quickly escalated into an argument over first amendment rights, after mayors from Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have announced over the last few weeks Chick-fil-A franchises are not welcome in their cities.

"People who own businesses should have the right to free speech, and should not be punished for it by political authority," Del. Justin Ready, R-District 5A, said at the service counter of Chick-fil-A while he picked up straws for the drinks he bought with his lunch.

Among the throng of supporters was a woman circling the drive-through, who screamed out her window telling patrons waiting in line to "take our country back."

Another person waiting in line outside of the Chick-fil-A, Eileen Clark, said the stamping of freedom of speech was part of the reason why she came to support Chick-fil-A Wednesday.

"This is a free country. [Cathy] should be able to say what he wants to say," Clark said. "The president came out and said he supports gay marriage and [Cathy] came out and said he didn't support it. So why would we punish him because he had his own opinion?"

Tracey Kashima only heard of the controversy this morning. She was waiting outside with her three children in line at the Chick-fil-A.

"I got an email this morning. So I just came to support them. I think it's great that they support their Christian values. As a person of faith, I thought it was important for us to come and support them," she said.

Kashima drove a half hour from Marriottsville to show her support.

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