A major U.S. restaurant chain has found itself at the center of the national debate over same-sex marriage.
Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A, recently told a religious news journal the company was "guilty as charged" of allegations it opposed same-sex marriage. Cathy said the family-owned business supported "the biblical definition of the family unit."
Cathy's remarks have sparked outrage among gay rights advocacy groups and protests against the Chick-fil-A chain based in Atlanta, Georgia. One group has publicized the company's donation of millions of dollars to groups that have campaigned against legalizing same-sex marriage.
Many critics have called for a boycott of the chain, while protests have sprung up at a handful of Chick-fil-A restaurants across the U.S. Some same-sex couples are planning to stage a national "kiss-in" at Chick-fil-A restaurants on August 3.
The company's stance has also angered politicians in Chicago and Boston. A Chicago city council member is opposing the opening of a Chick-fil-A store in his district, while Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote Cathy a letter urging him to abandon plans to open a franchise on the city's historic Freedom Trail. And the owner of the popular Muppet characters has ended its promotional partnership with the chain.
But Chick-fil-A is receiving support from religious conservatives for its anti-gay marriage beliefs. Former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has declared Wednesday, August 1 "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," a move supported by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, himself a former Republican presidential candidate, and legendary evangelical preacher Billy Graham.
Chick-fil-A, founded in 1967 by Cathy's father, S. Truett Cathy, posted more than $4.1 billion in sales last year. None of the company's 1,600 restaurants are open on Sundays, when many Christians in the U.S. attend worship services, in keeping with the Cathy family's beliefs.