Cal Poly’s on-campus Chick-fil-A became the local center of a nationwide controversy last week as people on both sides of the gay marriage debate visited the restaurant to make their opinions known.
On Wednesday, tourists, locals and Cal Poly staff, faculty and students against gay marriage ordered chicken sandwiches for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” while on Friday, locals in support of gay marriage protested outside the business for “Same Sex Kissing Day,” holding up signs and passing out pamphlets.
Both groups were reacting to a national outcry after Chick-fil-A COO, Dan Cathy, made his opinion on gay marriage public in a July 16 interview for The Baptist Press. LGBT organizations called for a boycott of the national chain, while conservative politicians such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee voiced their support for Cathy’s beliefs and urged people to show their own support by buying sandwiches and waffle fries last Wednesday.
The day was not just about gay marriage, but about supporting freedom of speech, said local small business owner Bruce Curtis.
“We’re supporting Chick-fil-A because we’re supporting Chick-fil-A’s COO,” Curtis said.
Cathy simply made his personal beliefs public, and Curtis has been shocked by the anti-Chick-fil-A sentiment, he said.
Public officials such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino both stated they will make efforts to keep the chain out of their cities. These statements are just an attempt to punish Cathy for having a “personal opinion,” Curtis said.
“I really think that is the lowest form of censorship,” Curtis said.
In response, both former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Huckabee spoke out in favor of the chain, and called upon like-minded Americans to support Chick-fil-A as well.
So, to make his opinion known, Curtis stopped by campus to have some chicken for lunch.
The support for Chick-fil-A is not an attempt to condemn anybody, but a move in support of freedom of speech, Curtis said.
“We also believe people have a right to moral beliefs,” Curtis said.
Not everyone supports Chick-fil-A and its presence on Cal Poly’s campus, though. People gathered outside of the restaurant on Friday for “Same Sex Kissing Day,” to protest Cathy’s beliefs.
Some Cal Poly students have also voiced their objection to Chick-fil-A’s campus presence, such as business administration senior Moses Torreblanca. Torreblanca said he thinks Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong on campus, because of Cathy’s public stance on marriage, and that people shouldn’t eat there, he said.
“In my opinion, since I strongly believe this way, I think people should boycott Chick-fil-A,” Torreblanca said.
Public support for gay marriage has risen in recent years, and Chick-fil-A, with the public stance against gay marriage, doesn’t belong on a campus that supports diversity and acceptance, Torreblanca said.
“To have an organization on campus trying to promote that is kind of contrary,” Torreblanca said.
Chick-fil-A won’t be leaving campus anytime soon, however, according to a release issued by Cal Poly Corporation last week.
Cal Poly Corporation reviewed Chick-fil-A’s contract, as well as its hiring and service practices in response to public inquiry, and as long as Chick-fil-A continues to be an equal opportunity employer, its contract is not violated and will remain at Cal Poly, Cal Poly Corporation executive director Bonnie Murphy wrote.
“So long as both Chick-fil-A and the Cal Poly Corporation fulfill their respective contractual obligations, there would be no legal basis for terminating our current contract,” Murphy wrote in the release.
In the future, though, Cal Poly Corporation will place special emphasis on how well a business fits with Cal Poly’s community ideals when deciding whether or not to bring a franchise to campus, Murphy wrote.
Still, some Cal Poly students will keep eating at Chick-fil-A not because of their beliefs about gay marriage, but because they love those chicken sandwiches, like graphic communication junior Jamie Sinnett. Sinnet doesn’t let politics affect his dining choices at all, he said.
Sinnett doesn’t agree with Cathy’s stance on gay marriage, but he still eats at Chick-fil-A because it’s tasty and close, he said.
“I’m buying Chick-fil-A because it’s convenient,” Sinnett said.
Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day definitely resulted in greater business for the on-campus dining facility, employee Ziggy Rodriguez said.
“It was really busy today,” Rodriguez said.
Customers didn’t discuss politics, but several did thank him and offer support for the franchise, Rodriguez said.