(CNN) — The row over same-sex marriage could see thousands of Christians flocking to Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, while same-sex couples will turn up at the fast-food chain Friday for public displays of affection.
Both events are intended as mass shows of support by people on both sides of the marriage issue and mark the latest round in a long-standing beef that gay and lesbian rights groups have with Chick-fil-A’s leadership, which has openly espoused biblical values, not only in its operating principles, but in its conservative definition of family as well.
The controversy came to a boil after an interview with the fast food restaurant chain’s president and COO Dan Cathy appeared in The Baptist Press on July 16, in which he weighed in with his views on family.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Proponents of same-sex marriage spread Cathy’s comments, eventually creating a firestorm of criticism on social media, including assertions that his comments and position were bigoted and hateful.
A handful of politicians joined in denouncing or backing Cathy’s remarks.
Former G.O.P. presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum encouraged people to show their support for Chick-fil-A by buying food there Wednesday. He dubbed the day “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” and touted in his TV and radio shows and online.
Over 550,000 visitors to Huckabee’s event page on Facebook have responded that they will participate. The action enjoys the support of the Rev. Billy Graham.
Proponents of same-sex marriage have organized a simple counter-protest for Wednesday, asking people to donate the approximate cost of a Chick-fil-A meal, about $6.50 to gay and lesbian rights groups, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Friday’s protest promises to be the more visible, as GLAAD is backing a “National Same-Sex Kiss Day” to be held at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide and encourages participants to take and post photos to the Internet.
The organization says on Facebook that this particular protest is not a response to Huckabee’s call to demonstration and that it was already announced on July 19 — three days after the interview with Chick-fil-A’s president .
GLAAD encourages supporters not to go in groups and to keep the kisses on the conservative side.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, along with the District of Columbia. Washington and Maryland voted earlier this year to allow same-sex marriages, but the laws have not yet taken effect.
Another five states — Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island — allow civil unions, providing state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples.