Cars lined up for blocks at Lufkin, Nacogdoches Chick-fil-As

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Chick-fil-A patrons lined the pockets of the famous fast food restaurant with profits today as cars lined up to place their order.

Supporters of Chick-fil-A are packing restaurants in Nacogdoches and Lufkin as the company is criticized for an executive's comments about marriage.

"We came from San Augustine," said Loretta Bedford outside the Nacogdoches restaurant. "We've never been to Chick-fil-A, but this is a cause to support."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared Wednesday national "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."
Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta-based company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family." That unleashed a torrent of criticism from gay rights groups and others, who have called for boycotts and efforts to block the chain from opening new stores.

It's not every day a chicken sandwich order becomes a way to support a unified stance on what constitutes a marriage.

"I believe there needs to be companies, people, families, churches that will take a stand. I believe what God says," said customer Mary Woods.

"My God, what has gone wrong with this country if we can't celebrate traditional marriages as put out in the Gospel," said Art Bedford.

"You know, we encourage tolerance as a family, but tolerance goes both ways," said Mark Livingston. "Dan Cathy has his opinion, so that's what we're here to support."

All the customers were willing to put up with traffic jams and waits for their food. Employees took orders in the parking lot to speed up matters. Parking was problem, so some customers took up spaces at an Asian restaurant across the street.

Illegal parking along side streets went ignored. Even ambulances pulled up on the curb so paramedics could run in to grab a sandwich.

In the past the Nacogdoches Chick-fil-A has graciously allowed KTRE in the establishment to do such stories as healthy foods in fast food restaurants. Today was a different matter. Cameras were banned from the property, orders by the corporate office.

The Lufkin Chick-fil-A didn't get the same directive. Cameras were allowed in to show viewers the overwhelming support the restaurant received this day.

"I think it's consistent with the corporate culture," said one Lufkin customer, referring to the chain's practice not to stay open on Sunday.

Not everyone is agreement.

Opponents of the company's stance are planning "Kiss Mor Chiks" for Friday, when they are encouraging people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country and kiss each other.

Tyler Area Gays expressed their thoughts on the food fight.

"I think it's great that dialogue is going on and that we live in America (TAG) where we can express different opinions and our support of different issues," said Jolie Smith, TAG's board chair. Smith said personally she is not offended by Chick-fil-A's stance.

There's no argument the restaurant is raking in the money. The entire issue may end up in a marketing textbook someday. The question to students will be should a fast food chain allow itself to become a political and social issue battleground?

"They just don't do that and there's a very good reason for that," said Joe Ballenger, a marketing professor at Stephen F. Austin State University. "It just angers certain people and even people who agree with the executive may not like that he's airing his political or religious view. They just may not like that strategy."

'Eat more chickin', is Chick-fil'-A's catchphrase, but after today it will bring more to mind than just a chicken breast sandwich.

Copyright 2012 KTRE. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.