Chick-Fil-A supporters line up, show appreciation

August 1, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Cathy is at the center of a controversy over gay marriage. The day of appreciation was not created by Chick-Fil-A. It was called by others. In fact, 17 House Republicans drafted a letter supporting Cathy.

On Wednesday, more had an opportunity to weigh in on the controversial issue. Lunchtime crowds around Chick-Fil-A restaurants were extreme. It wasn't the chicken sandwich that drew the patrons - but politics.

"I'm voting for free speech, if you will," said Richard David. "I support gays, but I also support the right to do business."

Political and religious leaders urged their supporters to show appreciation for Chick-Fil-A and specifically the restaurant chain's CEO, Cathy.

"We are not going to be pushed around; we are going to stand up for what we believe, according to scripture," said Kenny Ruiz.

Long lines at Chick-Fil-A restaurants lasted well into the night in what amounted to a nationwide food-purchasing protest. While some customers just wanted a sandwich, many gathered to send a message about gay marriage.

Well past dinner time, hundreds of people remained in line at the Chick-Fil-A in Schaumburg, hoping to get a chicken sandwich and be a little political with their dinner choice. The drive-thru was cut off around 9:45 p.m. as the line still snaked around the parking lot.

"I'm here because I'm supporting the freedom to speech and to have your own personal opinion," said Carol Modlin of Wheeling, who was set to wait nearly two hours for her food. Asked for her take on gay marriage, she said: "I'm not in favor of it."

"This is an absolute assault on freedom," said Pat Fedorski.

Last week, 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno denied a zoning permit for a Chick-Fil-A in his ward. Among the reasons for the denial: the comments made by the company's CEO.

On Wednesday, several Chicago Republicans filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General.

They say Alderman Moreno should be investigated for violating the state's human rights law by allegedly discrimination on basis of religion.

"We hope that enforcement of the law does not depend upon the percentage of the vote that we receive in the fall," said Chris Cleveland of the Chicago Republican Party. "This is a basic legal issue its a constitutional issue its a human rights issue."

On Thursday, another group plans to filed a human rights complaint against Chick-Fil-A. Anthony Martinez is with the Civil Rights Agenda. He says Cathy's comments go beyond personal belief and impacts the company's employees and customers.

"Chick-Fil-A is a restaurant and thus is a public accommodation," said Martinez. "And as such they are not allowed to make people feel unwelcome, objectionable, or unacceptable."

Scenes of packed Chick-Fil-A franchises played out across the country Wednesday, including in downtown Chicago.

"This is United States of America, and we should have the right to free speech," said Michelle Bonnstetter. "Just because you believe something doesn't mean you're going to mistreat someone, and Chick-Fil-A has no record of mistreating anyone."

Back in Schaumburg, some gay people criticized the apparent message of the crowds gathered at the restaurants.

"I think this is ridiculous, this is horrible, this is against gay marriage," said Andrea Mackey of Streamwood. "That's like criticizing people like me, and her, and her, and him - that's horrible."

Others sought perspective on Chick-Fil-A owner Dan Cathy's situation.

"He does have a right to say what he's saying, but I think it's a little disheartening that it's happening this close to home, that people could come out in such support over a statement that though it is his right to say, is so clearly wrong to me personally," said Michael Cerami of Schaumburg.

"Here in Chicago, we're a very inclusive city and... this company is not inclusive," said Robbie Smith. "I don't think they should... be opening any more locations in the city."

"For these people, it's not a personal issue," said Lindsay O'Brien. "They can go about their lives, freely marry whomever they want, get hired and not have to be worried about getting fired for their gender presentation or sexual orientation."

Francis Cardinal George said Wednesday night via electronic media that if it is un-Chicagoan to be against gay marriage, then even Jesus would be un-Chicagoan since he elevated heterosexual marriage to a sacrament of the church.

No one at Chick-Fil-A was doing interviews Wednesday, and ABC7's calls to Alderman Moreno were not returned. The letter from the Chicago Republicans was received by the Attorney General's office, but the office had no comment Wednesday.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.