Aug. 3, 2012 at 10:50 AM ET
Updated 3:40 p.m. ET: Two days after supporters of Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's stance against gay marriage flocked to its restaurants for an Appreciation Day, pro-gay marriage advocates are descending on the fast-food chain with a message of their own.
"We want to show Chick-fil-A and the country that the LGBT community's love is just as valid, just as good as heterosexual love," said grassroots advocate Carly McGehee.
McGehee started "National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A" at which she said same-sex couples are encouraged to visit the chain, "have a quick smooch or hug or show of affection," then post a photo or video of it online. She said organizers of local kiss-ins have been told to suggest that participants take their pictures outside the restaurants by its signs to avoid violating trespassing ordinances.
More than 13,000 people have signed up as "attending" on the event's Facebook page.
"This is not just about gay people getting together and kissing in front of a restaurant," said Marci Alt, an activist who organized a kiss-in at a Chick-fil-A in suburban Atlanta at noon (many of the others are scheduled for 8:00 p.m.). Yesterday, Alt posted a Change.org petition asking Cathy to have dinner with her, her wife and two kids, which had collected around 1,300 signatures by Friday.
Alt said roughly 100 protesters were gathered by 11:30 a.m., half an hour before the event was set to begin, and that the crowd fluctuated between 50 and 100 people for the first hour. She characterized the gathering as "very peaceful" although there was a police presence of four officers, along with a single counter-protester.
The restaurant was serving "typical lunch hour traffic," Alt said.
The group didn't receive any hostility from patrons or employees, Alt said. In fact, "[workers] brought two trays of lemonade out" for people protesting in the 95-degree heat. "It was very nice of them," Alt said, adding that they turned down the beverages.
"It really seems like this is a way young people on social media are responding to Dan Cathy," Rich Ferraro, spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said.
An NBC affiliate in the Los Angeles area reported Friday that vandals had defaced a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Torrance, depicting a cow with a paint can alongside the words "Tastes Like Hate" in an uneven block-letter font, mimicking the one used by the company in its ads.
Related story: Chick-fil-A protest marks rise of 'eat-in' movement
The firestorm kicked off after Cathy's interview in the Baptist Press last month, when the chicken scion said he was "guilty as charged" for opposing same-sex marriage. Through its foundation arm, family-owned Chick-fil-A has a long history of donating to organizations that oppose gay marriage. It also embraces other evangelical principles like closing its restaurants on Sundays.
Wednesday's Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, launched on Facebook by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, had more than 668,000 people listed as "attending." It could have earned the chain an additional $8 million in revenue, according to one analyst's estimate. Privately held Chick-fil-A wouldn't provide numbers but said it was a record day for sales. Local news outlets across the country reported long lines and police directing traffic at restaurants across the country.
Despite the sizable grassroots support, Chick-fil-A has faced backlash from other sectors. Lawmakers in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia voiced objection to the company building new restaurants in their cities, and the toy company run by the estate of Muppet creator Jim Henson said it will no longer make toys for the restaurant's kids' meals. (Chick-fil-A has said it decided to stop selling the Henson toys a day prior to that decision.)
"This is about, 'I should have the same rights as everybody else,'" Alt said.