MYRTLE BEACH — Grand Strand residents didn’t chicken out Wednesday in showing their support of Myrtle Beach area Chick-fil-A restaurants.
Restaurants were standing-room-only and drive-thrus were backed into streets in response to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s declaration of Wednesday as Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day following backlash over comments made by the company’s president, Dan Cathy, regarding his beliefs on the idea of the family unit.
“I want to support this man and his right in the United States of America to have an opinion,” said Tonya Phillips as she enjoyed her lunch at Chick-fil-A on U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach. “I’m not taking a stand against anyone or any group of people. I am just supporting this man with his opinion.”
Others showed up because they share the same opinion.
“I grew up with the belief that it was a man and a woman, not a man and a man,” area resident Beverly Rogers said about her views on marriage. “I am supporting them to speak up for their rights. My daughter even just called and said we were coming back later.”
The show of support comes after Cathy was quoted in the Baptist Press saying, “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.”
The statement has sparked a firestorm among the gay community, with some groups calling for boycotts of the popular eatery and others prompting opponents of Cathy’s statement to visit the eatery Friday and take part in a “National Same-Sex Kiss Day.” Mayors in cities such as Boston, San Francisco and Chicago have made it clear that Chick-fil-A isn’t welcome in their communities.
Some nationwide took to actual protests outside the restaurants, as did some at the Surfside Beach location on Highway 544. Protesters displayed signs to passers-by in cars exclaiming, “Some people are gay, get over it.”
Myrtle Beach resident Chris Gingrich said he was outraged by the comments, but he doesn’t plan on physically protesting the restaurant.
“I think everybody has a right to opinions, but it kind of draws the line,” he said. “I think it’s borderline hateful. Just the rhetoric behind it … saying he goes by what the Bible says by him saying he supports the family.”
Gingrich doesn’t eat at the restaurant, but he said that if he had, Cathy’s statement would have brought that to a halt.
Phillips is in a unique situation than most supporting the restaurant Wednesday because her son is gay.
“My son and I have had a healthy conversation about the whole topic,” she said. “He thinks the gay community is being oppressed by this one man, when I informed him that the gay community is oppressing this one man by banning the restaurant.”
Phillips said she believed the gay community was going after Cathy because his opinions differed from theirs.
“The people who are screaming about it the most is the gay community,” she said. “The great thing about this country is we love each other because we are different. Why doesn’t the gay community show this by being the first in line?”
Jerry Alley of Myrtle Beach doesn’t see it the same way.
“One of the things that bothered me is that he is basing it on his biblical reasons,” Alley said. “That’s well and good, but it says ‘thou shall not kill,’ but we still have a death penalty. I have gay Christian friends and I don’t think they would appreciate what he said.”
Chick-fil-A has 11 restaurants in the six states and Washington, D.C., where gay marriage is legal, compared to 196 locations in Georgia – the company’s home state – alone, according to the company website.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino sent a letter to Chick-fil-A trying to stop the restaurant from opening a location within the city.
“There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it,” Menino said in the letter.
Chick-fil-A Executive Vice President of Marketing Steve Robinson said the company would no longer be involved in the debate.
“Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” Robinson said in a statement.
Contact BILLY CROSBY at 626-0310.