Houston: The Chick-fil-A Protest That Wasn't

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Kisses for equality
The Montgomery Bus Boycott, this was not. In fact, most of the people eating dinner at the Chick-fil-A off of I-10 in the Heights weren't even aware they were in the midst of what was supposed to be a gay kiss-in to protest recent anti-gay marriage rhetoric by the chain's president -- who recently hypothesized that God will smite us if we support gay marriage.

In saying this, the president, Dan Cathy, pioneered a bold new business strategy: the politicization of fried chicken. "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'" Cathy said.

The comments awakened something truly bizarre in the United States -- the commingling of conservative ideology with fast food. On Wednesday, Chick-fil-As across the land drew droves of religious and conservative customers, but the response from the gay community at the Heights eatery was tepid by comparison. Eight gay people showed up. They made out a bit out front. A few pictures got snapped. The manager, a tall and crew-cut Drew Ellis, offered them all something to drink while a police officer watched over him to, presumably, protect him from all the gayness.

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Steve Stellenwerf and his partner: Eating Chick-fil-A is embracing hate
Ellis, who opened this Chick-fil-A in mid-April, was immensely un-quotable. "For the most part, it's been a non-event," he said. "We serve everyone the same exact way. We're here to serve hot, fresh food in a clean environment with a group of friendly team members."

Brandan Montana, 28, munched on a platter of french fries in the corner and, though he's anti-gay marriage, he said he didn't come to Chick-fil-A for the politics. "Food's pretty good," he said.

Outside the store among the gays, the mood was rather cheerful despite the meager showing. Steve Stellenwerf, 50, said he wasn't surprised that a national controversy has emerged regarding Cathy's comments. But he was shocked at how many people came out in support of his comments by consuming large quantities of fried chicken. "When I saw how many people ate here on Wednesday, it was sickening," he said. "Eating here is a vote for hate."

He and the others said they never considered moving to another state, like Iowa, so they could legally marry their partners. Robin Brown, 49, said doing that would be giving up on Texas. She's here to try and effect change -- that can't happen in a place where gay marriage has already been legalized.

"We have a lot of work to do," she said. "But Texas gays are starting to get a seat at the table."

She probably didn't mean at a Chick-fil-A table.

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