ATLANTA (AP) — Gay rights activists and other supporters of marriage equality planned a national "Kiss In" at Chick-fil-A restaurants Friday to protest the fast-food chain owners' opposition to same-sex unions.
Participants are encouraged to come to 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 gay youths "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."
The gatherings come two days after hundreds of thousands of customers, many of them conservative Christians, recognized "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" at more than 1,600 locations.
The company said in a statement the turnout Wednesday made for "an unprecedented day," although it says it doesn't release exact sales numbers.
"The Chick-fil-A culture and 66-year-old service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender," the statement said.
Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy stirred the controversy when he told a religious publication last month that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family."
In a later radio interview, Cathy said: "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'"
The Southern Baptist Cathy family has long been known for using biblical principles to operate its business, including never opening the company's stores on Sundays.