Chick-fil-A Express at University of Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS - Gay marriage supporters staged "kiss-in" demonstrations Friday at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the nation, but that part of the protest movement bypassed Minnesota.
It was the latest development in an ongoing controversy that began in July when the fast food chain's CEO Dan Cathy said he "believes definition of marriage." That quote, in a Southern Baptist minister's online publication, caused several big city mayors to say Chick-fil-A wouldn't be welcome in their cities.
There are no full-fledged Chick-fil-A stores in the state, only Chick-fil-A Express counters in three institutional settings in the state, including the University of Minnesota's student union in Minneapolis.
That store experienced no picketing or outbreaks of same-sex kissing Friday, at least not between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. while the food court was open. Instead the U's Chick-fil-A saw its typical summertime lunch crowd, made up mainly of visiting teenagers and their parents.
Whether the store will see any impact of a boycott is hard to gauge between semesters. Several customers told KARE they base their lunch decisions on convenience and cost, rather than politics and current events.
"I've noticed my classmates have not been bringing Chick-fil-A into the classroom anymore," U of M graduate student Joni Strandquest told KARE.
"It was a pretty regular dining spot before for then. You'd always see Chick-fil-A sacks and wrappers."
Strandquest, a Georgia native, has relatives who live in College Park, the Georgia city where Chick-fil-A is headquartered.
"The Cathy family, in the big picture, do a lot of good in the community down there. They support a lot of great causes in that particular community," she explained.
Strandquest, an occupational therapy masters student, said she finds the controversy fascinating on many levels.
"I think that this is making people ask questions that they wouldn't necessarily ask otherwise," she said. "And that's always a good thing. I think it's giving people options to take a stand."
In contrast the U of M's Chick-fil-A was buzzing with activity, after a former Arkansas governor and Fox TV personality declared Aug. 1 to be "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" in America. Opponents of gay marriage kept the store hopping for three hours, and the line line stretched out of the doors.
On that day some of the Chick-fil-A stores in other states reported running out of food because of the rush from people coming to the defense of Dan Cathy.
"I'm supporting Mr. Cathy and his biblical views," Judy Watkins told a CNN crew in Smyrna, Georgia. "And it's not necessarily his views, it's God's views."
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party Republican who ran for the presidency last year, joined the chorus. She sent potential donors a link to a video she posted on YouTube.
"We are here because we are standing with the Cathys, who stand with the family," Bachmann said to the camera, as she clutched Chick-fil-A to-go bag.
Social Media impact
Dan Cathy never made any secret about his religious views, but when his gay marriage quote hit social media last month Chick-fil-A became the latest front in the battleground on how Americans define the word family.
"Once it's out there, it's out there," Krisanne Weiss of Minneapolis told KARE, outside the student union Friday.
"You can't really get the toothpaste back in the tube anymore, because of social media, basically. But that allows everyone to mobilize quickly in whatever way they feel is most appropriate, which is also a good thing."
Weiss said she's a vegetarian, so she had never been a Chick-fil-A customer before the controversy erupted.
"Now I have a couple more reasons not to eat there," she added. "The stance the CEO has taken regarding gay marriage and all of the outpouring of support that they've now received from conservative and hateful groups."
Her coworker, Tricia Van Ee Molbert, said she'd prefer to know more about where restaurants buy their meat before she patronizes them.
"I tend to eat at places that use free-range chickens," she said. "I have nothing against delicious fried chicken, but I'd like to know it had a happy life before I ate it!"
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