Waving signs with slogans like "I love my boyfriend just as much as you love your spouse," supporters of same-sex unions protested Friday at select metro Atlanta Chick-fil-A stores.
In what was dubbed National Same-Sex Kiss Day, thousands were expected to lock lips at the company's restaurants nationwide to demonstrate to the Atlanta-based chain that it has gay customers, and that they want their relationships valued.
The event came a month after Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy caused a national stir when he said he supports what he called the biblical definition of marriage. It also came on the heels of Wednesday's Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, in which thousands turned out to support Cathy's stand or his freedom of speech.
Wednesday's turnout set a one-day sales record for the fast-food chicken chain, but Chick-fil-A marketing Vice President Steve Robinson was quick to point out that the appreciation day was independently coordinated.
While police in Torrance, Calif., were investigating graffiti at a Chick-fil-A restaurant that said "Tastes like hate," Friday's demonstrations in Atlanta were low-key and peaceful.
The numbers paled in comparison with Wednesday's crowds, but the protesters said it was not about matching enthusiasm, it was about creating awareness. Chick-fil-A has given millions to anti same-sex marriage organizations such as the Family Research Council and Exodus International.
"I don't care about their personal views, I care about how they spend their money," Atlantan Benjamin Cobb said as he protested with about 30 others outside the East Trinity Place Chick-fil-A in Decatur.
"What they are saying is you're welcome in our restaurant and your money is welcome, but we're going to turn it around and use it against you," said protester Tascha Madaffari, whose children, Dominic, William and Emerson, sat nearby eating McDonald's meals.
The situation has strained relations with some Chick-fil-A franchisees. Corporate leaders have put a lid on public discussion, which has caused some, such as the owners of the gay-friendly Decatur location, to walk a tight rope between supporting their customers and following orders. Employees of the Decatur restaurant offered protesters lemonade, which the demonstrators refused, chanting Thank you, but no thank you."
"I think everyone is free to do what they want, including deciding where their money goes," said Bryce Smith, who protested at Colony Square with about 12 others. "But I can also express my opinion about that."
About 25 protesters waved to passing traffic in front of CNN Center in downtown Atlanta Friday night. One of them, John Longino of Cherokee County, identified himself as a straight father of seven who said he was there because "everyone needs to be equal."
He was accompanied by his son, Rollin, a student at Kennesaw State University, who was dressed like Jesus and held a sign that said, "I had two dads and turned out alright."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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