The culture war over a chicken sandwich comes to a head today, as supporters and opponents of gay marriage battle out their differences at Chick-fil-A counters and parking lots across the country.
Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based fast-food chain, has turned his company into ground zero for debates about same-sex unions, free speech, corporate America and viral social media. Two weeks ago, he deemed his company "guilty as charged" of supporting "the biblical definition of the family unit."
In rapid succession, figures such as Rick Santorum, Roseanne Barr, Sarah Palin, Conan O'Brien and a slew of mayors weighed in.
But it's former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's contribution that's getting the most play today. Early in the debate, the former Arkansas governor declared Aug. 1 to be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day and urged supporters to swarm into the restaurants in support.
In the Southland, one event posted on Meetup asks customers to show up at the Laguna Niguel restaurant for lunch and dinner to "make a statement in favor of God, country, freedom of speech and traditional American values." More than 80 people have signed up to attend.
Lest they be outdone, Chick-fil-A critics today also plan to protest outside the chicken chain's restaurants.
On a Facebook page for one such rally outside the Hollywood store, organizers wrote that they hope to counter "the bigotry and hate that is being promoted by the Chick-fil-A company" by passing out fliers and collecting donations for a local center for gay youth.
More than 100 participants have signed up to attend.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, also intends to protest at the same location, calling attention to "Chick-fil-A's cruelty to chickens as well as its anti-gay stance."
On Friday, same-sex couples plan to converge on Chick-fil-A locations for National Same-Sex Kiss Day. At 8 p.m., they plan to publicly embrace to voice their displeasure against the millions of dollars Chick-fil-A is said to have donated to anti-gay marriage organizations.
A Facebook group dedicated to the protest pokes fun at Chick-fil-A's slogan "Eat Mor Chikin" with the motto "Kiss Mor Chiks."
The event's intention, however, is "not to disturb business," said organizer Carly McGehee.
[Updated at 8:58 a.m.: Across the country, Twitter users described "mile long traffic to get into chick-fil-a," stores "so crowded there are cops directing traffic off the highway" and "26 cars in the drive through." One user, EWErickson, wrote that the "crowd was so big I gave up."
Earlier, several North Carolina Wendy's restaurants posted signs saying "We Stand With Chick Fil A." The fast-food chain, a rival of Chick-fil-A, tweeted at MSNBC's Thomas Roberts today that the signs were put up by an independent franchisee and have since been taken down. "We proudly serve ALL customers," Wendy's tweeted.]