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Gay marriage controversy draws hundreds to Orland Park Chick-fil-A

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Updated: September 3, 2012 1:16PM



Hundreds and hundreds of people coming from miles around descended Wednesday on the Orland Park Chick-fil-A restaurant to make a mass political statement supporting traditional marriage and free speech — by buying chicken sandwiches and waffle fries.

Traffic was backed up on LaGrange Road from before noon until well into the evening as cars spilled into the parking lots of neighboring businesses, and the line of customers — some of whom ordered sandwiches by the dozens — snaked around the building for hours.

The scene was repeated in varying degrees at Chick-fil-A’s nationwide, in reaction to widespread criticism of the chicken chain’s president for expressing its stance against gay marriage.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, had declared Wednesday national “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” after Dan Cathy, the company president, was lambasted for telling the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta-based company was “guilty as charged” in backing “the biblical definition” of a family.

Gay rights groups and others, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), called for boycotts and efforts to block the chain from opening new stores.

Some who showed up Wednesday at the Orland Park store, 15605 S. LaGrange Road, were unhappy with politicians for butting into Chick-fil-A’s business over an opinion protected as free speech. Others wanted to air their beliefs that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

The latter was the case for a busload of about 30 people from the First Baptist Church in Bourbonnais, which arrived shortly after noon.

Surveying the crowd, Pastor Terry Angela said, “It’s a statement. It’s a great statement that the average American, the bulk of the population ... they believe in the biblical definition of marriage. It’s proven today and it’s proven at the ballot box.”

Troy O’Quin, the pastor of River Oaks Community Church in South Holland, also brought about 40 people to the restaurant after preaching Sunday about the Chick-fil-A controversy.

“They’re going to break every record for one-day sales,” O’Quin said.

The line started getting long just before 11 a.m. As more people arrived, a news helicopter circled overhead and the crowd erupted into applause.

Melissa Watson, of Midlothian, stopped by with her 7-month-old boy Matthew to pick up 25 sandwiches and 25 orders of waffle fries for her husband Larry’s auto shop in Chicago, Art’s Auto Rebuilders. She had heard about the “appreciation day” through Huckabee.

“I hope they make tons of money. It’s time we make a statement,” Watson said. “People can’t control what we believe.”

The crowd cheered when Chick-fil-A workers unloaded bright white boxes stamped with the company’s logo into the car of Laurel Schaap, who bought 64 sandwiches for employees at the Ozinga Brothers office in Mokena.

“When the gay movement marches in the streets and are vocal, it’s their right,” Schaap said. “It’s our right to vote with our wallets.”

Don Lontz, of Lansing, who brought his wife Pat and his granddaughter Kelly Lewandowski to the restaurant, said, “I’d like to know what someone might have said if the Chick-fil-A owner was Muslim. Muslims don’t believe in gay marriage, either.

“The guy, Moreno, and the ‘tiny dancer’ mayor can’t tell us what we have to believe.”

Worth resident Rebecca Harder brought her six girls to the restaurant for lunch. Rebecca and her children Abigail, 9; Grace, 7; Naomi, 6; Sophia, 4; Micaela, 20 months; and Joella, 5 months; wore homemade “We love and support Chick-fil-A” T-shirts.

Orland Hills resident Sue Polewski waited in the drive-through line in her sports car, blasting Bruce Springsteen’s anguished 1980s anthem, “Born in the USA.”

“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Polewski said. “How else can we keep the Earth going? We can’t be extinct like the dinosaurs. Everyone has the right to their opinion, and I’m hungry.”

The line was such that Cassie Dignan, the marketing director of the Orland Park Chick-fil-A, was passing out water as people waited in the heat. She noted that Chick-fil-A did not sponsor the event, that word had spread through the media, both social and traditional.

The line just kept growing, and police used bright orange cones to snake it through the parking lot, which soon was empty of cars as police directed them elsewhere for the safety of those standing and waiting.

“We were expecting a crowd, but not this big,” Dignan said. “We’re doing this with a smile on our face, and we’re doing the best we can. We’re here to serve chicken and treat people with honor, dignity and respect.”

As of 8:30 p.m., Orland Park police said there had been no problems at the restaurant.

Chick-fil-A was known for its conservative stances long before Cathy’s comments. It is closed on Sundays, ostensibly because it puts faith ahead of profits.

Opponents of the company’s marriage stance are planning “Kiss Mor Chiks” for Friday, when they are encouraging people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A’s around the country and kiss each other.

“They’re going to be kissing each other and it’s disgusting,” Diana Malinowksi said while waiting in the drive-through.

Contributing: AP



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