Supporters of same-sex marriage staged a kiss-in at Chick-fil-A locations across the United States on Friday, to show their displeasure with comments made by the head of the fast-food chain.
Chick-fil-A has been under fire from gay rights supporters since president Dan Cathy last month told the Baptist Press that the Atlanta-based chain was "guilty as charged" for backing the "biblical definition of family."
Cathy also called supporters of gay marriage "arrogant" — prompting calls for a boycott against Chick-fil-A, rebukes from the mayors of Boston and Chicago, and ending at least one business relationship when the Jim Henson Co. pulled its toys from the chain.
Same-sex couples and their supporters had planned for the "kiss-in" protest to start at 8 p.m., but reports of smooching couples were coming in earlier. However, it was unclear how many restaurants drew kissing couples.
Police, meanwhile, were investigating graffiti at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Southern California where someone apparently spray-painted the words "Tastes like hate" along with a picture of a cow, in reference to the chain's ubiquitous ads featuring cows encouraging people to eat poultry. No one has been arrested.
In another unusual twist, a medical executive in Tucson, Ariz., was fired on Thursday after videotaping himself denouncing the corporation as he receives a free cup of water from a Chick-fil-A drive-thru.
Adam Smith, chief financial officer with medical device manufacturer Vante, berates a female employee, asking her why she works at a "hateful" corporation.
He goes on to say, "I don't know how you live with yourself," as the woman explains she cannot comment on the controversy and she is uncomfortable being filmed. She also repeatedly wishes him a good day.
Smith apparently uploaded the video to YouTube and it went viral. After news of the exchange reached his employer, Smith was let go.
The kiss-in protest followed what the company says was a "record-setting day" on Wednesday, when supporters poured into its 1,600 locations at the urging of former U.S. presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee — a Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor — called on supporters of "traditional values" to turn out for "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."
Chick-fil-A would not release exact sales figures to substantiate its claim of record sales.
Chain shows no concern about protests
The Facebook page behind the "Kiss Mor Chiks" protest had tallied more than 18,000 "likes" and other declarations of support by Thursday evening, although on Friday it appeared to have been deleted.
One commenter, describing herself as a married mother of two from Virginia, had posted that she was "totally planning to make out with my best friend, a lesbian mommy," at her local Chick-fil-A.
"It's fine with my hubby, my kids think it's 'cool' and my preacher father suggested we participate," she added.
Participants have been encouraged to visit the fast-food chains and kiss a fellow demonstrator of the same sex. One organizer, Carly McGehee of Dallas, said she hopes the event "helps LGBT youth who feel isolated and are victims of bullying."
"Without question, Dan Cathy has every right to voice his opinions and beliefs," Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a statement.
"But he should meet and get to know the people that he's speaking out against — the people who are harmed by his company's multi-million dollar donations to anti-gay hate groups working to hurt everyday LGBT Americans and break apart loving families," Graddick said.
"LGBT" is an abbreviation for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender."
Chick-fil-A says it is unconcerned about Friday's demonstrations. A spokesperson described the protest as "another opportunity for us to serve with genuine hospitality, superior service and great food."
And for some, Cathy's comments were unlikely to determine whether they would eat at the fast-food chain.
"I think it's a little over the top," Sarah Holtzman said. "He's just a man and he's entitled to his opinions and whether or not I agree with him doesn't mean I can't buy chicken from him."