SIOUX CITY | Supporters of Chick-fil-A flooded Southern Hills Mall on Wednesday as part of a nationwide show of support for the company and an executive’s opposition to gay marriage.
“I wanted to support Chick-fil-A and the founder (and) to support basically anything anybody wants” to say, said Ken Boyce, of Sioux City, after a 40-minute wait for two packs of nuggets and a sandwich.
Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.”
Gay rights groups and others called for boycotts, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the company wasn’t welcome to build restaurants in the city. The backlash prompted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, to declare Wednesday national "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” and encourage people to buy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries.
By 2 p.m. Wednesday, eight workers took orders from a line of about 55 people at the Southern Hills Mall location. Two security guards observed the area, where dozens of people ate. No counter-protests were reported.
People there said the line at one point Wednesday afternoon had more than 100 customers.
Lonnie Hill, of Sioux City, ate nearby at Iron Hill Bar & Grill. She said Cathy has a right to say what he feels, even if it offends people. Hill said she has several gay friends, but wasn’t making a statement about the controversy by not eating at Chick-Fil-A.
“I am not a protester,” she said.
Boyce supports traditional marriage but said “that does not make me anti-gay.” He said his conversations with other people in the Chick-Fil-A line showed they are not bigoted. He said Cathy and anyone else have the right to share their point of view, regardless of what it is.
“If they want to support traditional marriage, I will support that right,” Boyce said.
He said the chicken was worth the wait.
“I feel sorry for the people working there. They are working their butts off,” he said.
The Appreciation Day was not endorsed by Chick-fil-A, said company spokesman Steve Robinson in a statement. The privately held company is not releasing sales figures, he said.
“We appreciate all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time,” Robinson said.
Opponents of Cathy's stance have planned "Kiss Mor Chiks" for Friday, asking people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A locations and kiss each other.
Chick-fil-A plans to construct a new Sioux City location outside the mall at 4428 Sergeant Road.
Mayor Bob Scott said Cathy has a right to express his opinions and thinks it’s inappropriate for elected officials to block the company from opening new locations.
"I'm not going to say to Chick-Fil-A they can't build in Sioux City," he said. "I'm not going to tell someone who feels the other way they can't build in Sioux City."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the number of customers at Southern Hills Mall. The information has been changed in this version.