By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – By 11 a.m. Wednesday, the drive-through line of cars at the Thompson Square Chick-fil-A wrapped twice around the building and into Barnes Crossing Road.
A line of dine-in customers stretched out into the at-capacity parking lot and around the corner to the back of the restaurant.
They weren’t there just for the chicken. Many came to support and defend chicken chain president Dan Cathy’s convictions about the “biblical definition of the family unit.”
“We want the world to know there are still Christians willing to take a stand,” said Glynda Weeden of Corinth.
The turnout was a response to “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” an occasion initiated by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who rallied conservative Christians to combat the negative attention building around Cathy since he made his original statements in a mid-July interview.
Tupelo residents Leslie Holliday and Audre Leckie turned out to show support for “biblical marriage.”
“We want to spend our money on a good cause,” Holliday said.
Others see Cathy’s opposition to same-sex marriage differently. Mayors in Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia have all said more Chick-fil-A restaurants wouldn’t be welcome in their cities. Gay rights groups have decried Cathy’s position.
Ben King drove all the way from Selmer, Tenn., to eat and support the First Amendment. King said Cathy’s choices of where he made donations and how he operated his business were his alone to make.
“This is an ethical issue that has been pushed to the forefront of the political spectrum,” King said.
Harmony Hill Baptist Church’s youth group drove from Burnsville to join the cause.
“(Cathy’) persecution is wrong. He has the right to speak out and exercise his beliefs,” said youth group leader Clark Whitten.
First District Congressman Alan Nunnelee, a Tupelo Republican, voiced his concern in a letter to Cathy co-signed by 16 of his congressional colleagues.
“Demanding ideological conformity in order to be allowed to run your business is a dangerous precedent,” Nunnelee said, commending Chick-fil-A as an “American success story.”
Other Chick-fil-A locations in Northeast Mississippi were just as swamped.
Elizabeth Nichols, a team leader at the Chick-fil-A in Oxford, said they had been “slammed” since 10 a.m. when she started her shift, and that there had been as many as 50 orders to fill at one time.
At The Mall at Barnes Crossing, the line stretched all the way across the food court.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation has announced plans to stage its own protest, “National Same-Sex Kiss Day,” scheduled to take place at Chick-fil-As on Friday.