This article was updated at 4:30 p.m., Aug. 2, 2012.
More than a hundred people crowded into Frederick’s Chick-fil-A Wednesday in support of the chain’s stance against same sex marriage, with lines stretching out of the building and two employees brought outside to direct traffic.
“People are out here to demonstrate that if a bunch of stupid liberals are going to make hay about this, then we’re going to show up and shove it in their face that they’re in the minority and that they live in a bubble,” said Frederick resident Mike Kett, 45, who was waiting in line at the restaurant at 5501 Urbana Pike. The location is the only one in Frederick County.
The national restaurant chain has come under fire recently for comments made by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, who said the company supported the traditional biblical definition of marriage.
The statements drew the ire of those in support of gay marriage, who called for a boycott of the chain. That, in turn, prompted former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a talk show host on Fox News, to declare Wednesday Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day and to encourage people to visit their local stores.
The same sex marriage debate is also raging in Maryland, where Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has signed a bill allowing gay marriage in the state that would take effect Jan. 1, but a ballot referendum to allow voters to approve or reject the law will be on the ballot Nov. 6.
Some members of Frederick’s gay community have said the reason for the boycott is less about the stance on marriage, and more about the chain’s support of anti-gay activist groups.
Brian Walker, who helped organize Frederick’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Picnic last month, said today that he was far more concerned about what the groups that are funded by Chick-fil-A do with the money the company donates than the company’s stance on gay marriage. He also said he wasn’t surprised by the large turnout Wednesday at the chain.
“There are some people with years and years of reinforced thinking that they follow,” Walkers said. “It’s easier to follow a slogan than to investigate and do your own research and make your own decision.”
Austin Beach, the executive director of Frederick’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Community Center, said the boycott of Chick-fil-A would continue much longer than the one day of boosted service.
“The underlying large movement is that the boycott’s going to continue regardless of the fact that they had one day of support,” Beach said. “The boycott will be going on for a long time. The center believes that people should focus not on what’s happening but why it’s happening.”
Samuel Coats, the manager of Frederick’s store, was handing out food and helping to pack purchases for the crowd of people in the store at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. He was unable to provide store sales figures, but was surprised by the outpouring.
“We expected it to be busy, but not like this,” he said. “It’s insane.”
Frederick resident Larry Lewis, 55, who was waiting in line with his wife, Teresa, 56, to purchase lunch, said he heard about the support campaign on several blogs he follows.
“We’re here to support family values,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he and his wife are regular customers of the store.
“When we travel, we try to hit them as much as we can, except on Sundays of course,” Lewis said, referring to Chick-fil-A’s policy of being closed on Sundays so its employees can spend time with their family, rest and worship, according to the company website.
“They’re in the right place Sunday, in God’s house,” Teresa Lewis said.
Other customers waiting to eat Wednesday at the restaurant expressed similar sentiments.
Mount Airy resident Brenda Wolfe, 47, said she was supporting the chain’s stance on traditional marriage.
“I’m supporting Chick-fil-A and their stand for marriage,” she said. “I think more people stand for traditional marriage than what the media wants you to know about.”
Blaine Young (R), president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, was also among those backing the chain. He said he supports the company’s right to freedom of speech and its stance on traditional marriage.
“I was there and made my purchase,” Young said. “I went over there about 2:30, and there was a huge crowd. It made me late for my radio show. I got out about 3:30.”