Cathy gay marriage stance re-ignites Chick-fil-A debate

Almost a year after making comments that dragged his company into the gay marriage debate, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy entered the fray again on Wednesday.

After the Supreme Court on Wednesday issued rulings that favored same-sex unions, Cathy tweeted his disappointment.

“Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies.”

The comment was quickly deleted, but not before being captured in screenshots and prompting online debate on whether the company had reneged on promises it made to stay out of the political arena as a result of protests last summer over Cathy’s views.

Cathy - son of company founder Truett Cathy - told an online religious magazine in early July 2012 that he was “guilty as charged” in his opposition to gay marriage. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” he said.

In other comments, he said “we’re 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.”

Gay marriage supporters protested, and thousands demonstrated with “kiss-ins” outside the company’s restaurants nationwide. Even larger numbers of opponents of same-sex unions showed support for Cathy, however, by eating at the chain during “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” which saw lines that snaked out doors and down streets.

The company later reported that it set a one-day sales record because of the turnout.

Students at several colleges, including Emory University, pressed their schools to boot the chain off their campuses.

In a statement issued after Cathy’s Wednesday tweet, the company said, “Dan Cathy, like everyone in this country, has his own views. However, Chick-fil-A is focused on providing great tasting food and genuine hospitality to everyone.”

In explaining later why the tweet was removed, the company said, “He (Cathy) realized his views didn’t necessarily represent the views of all customers, restaurant owners and employees and didn’t want to distract them from providing a great restaurant experience.”

Tim Calkins, a branding expert at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, said Cathy’s tweet was a setback for the company.

“It seemed like Chick-fil-A had moved on and all of a sudden (Cathy) brings the issues back into the light,” he said.

Especially problematic is that the person causing the potential damage is the owner, he said. In other circumstances, the company could dismiss the errant employee, even a leader such as a president or chief executive officer.

“The long-term question may be at what point does the family become a liability for the brand,” he said.

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