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Chick-fil-A protesters cite intolerance

Gay marriage supporters gather outside Valencia store in response to ‘Appreciation Da

Posted: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

A handful of gay activists and their supporters turned out Friday at Chick-fil-A for a small, quiet protest held outside the fast-food chain’s Valencia location.

The mild-mannered gathering arrived due to word of mouth and social media, the most recent response to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s remarks about gay marriage. After Cathy confirmed he supported a biblical view of marriage, the mayors of two major cities, along with activist groups, were upset and called for boycotts.

“I’m a straight person in support of equality for all people,” said 63-year-old Tom Lawler, of Valencia, who walked over to the group sans sign, but stayed and conversed in a show of support.

“I don’t think you have to be gay to support equality,” he added.

Officials with the fast-food chain remained tight-lipped since Cathy’s controversial statements.

Friday’s protesters took a considerably different stance on the issue of Cathy’s comments than those who showed up earlier in the week at the restaurant.

“Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” gained a groundswell of national support for free speech Wednesday, including a nearly all-day line around the Westfield Valencia Town Center restaurant. Many of those customers said it was an issue of free speech.

But for the activists gathered outside Friday — who ranged in age from 16 to 63 — the issue wasn’t about alienating First Amendment rights, it was about intolerance.

“I have dealt with discrimination for my sexuality,” said Ceilidh Roughten, 16, of Saugus. “I like to let people know that I’m not going to let their hate stop me from being who I am.”

As she stood outside holding a sign supporting gay marriage, 63-year-old A.J. Salonius-Sherrod encouraged two lesbians who walked into the store holding hands.

“You are showing such courage, or chutzpah, as my people would call it,” she said.

After Mayra Gonzalez, 32, and Jessica Johnson, 27, walked in, they said they were treated very well.

“One of the workers came up to me and said, ‘I’m really glad you guys are here,’” said Johnson, who was there with her domestic partner.

“And it’s nice to know that just because the president of a company is rude, it doesn’t mean everyone in the whole organization is.”

For Salonius-Sherrod, the event reminded her of the activism of her youth, and she said she was encouraged by the protesters next to her.

“This is so peaceful,” said Salonius-Sherrod, a Chicago native who was teargassed at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. “Even the people who don’t like us are being very kind.”

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