published Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Chick-fil-A 'Kiss-In' not a big draw in Chattanooga

Andrew Killion, left, and Magdaleno Roman talk with Chick-fil-A store operator Mitch Collins, second from right, and operations manager Jeff Corvin outside of the Chick-fil-A on Gunbarrel Road. The employees were telling the men that they were welcome to come inside the store.
Andrew Killion, left, and Magdaleno Roman talk with Chick-fil-A store operator Mitch Collins, second from right, and operations manager Jeff Corvin outside of the Chick-fil-A on Gunbarrel Road. The employees were telling the men that they were welcome to come inside the store.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Hundreds of people showed up at the Chick-fil-A on Gunbarrel Road on Wednesday for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, but only a handful of people visited the restaurant Friday night for a "Kiss-In," part of National Same-Sex Kiss Day.

Four people were there at 8 p.m., when the event, organized by gay rights groups across the country, was scheduled to start.

Katherine McGehee was one of them.

"We have come out tonight just to remind people that there is a lot of love in Chattanooga, and there is a lot of love for all communities in Chattanooga," she said. "We wanted to come together as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."

Chick-fil-A is at the center of controversy this week after Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy made comments against gay marriage.

Mitch Collins, operator of the Chick-fil-A on Gunbarrel Road, said everyone is welcome to eat at the restaurant.

"Our goal is to serve everyone with honor, dignity and respect," he said. "And Chick-fil-A has been saying that for years; it's not just all of the sudden."

Andrew Killion-Reyes said he wished more people would have showed up.

"The real reason I think people have not showed up tonight is fear," he said. "We do live in a society that doesn't necessarily accept people of different orientations or different people as a whole."

Killion-Reyes, who is gay, said he does not think Chattanooga is as gay-friendly as other cities such as Nashville. He said he came to the protest to stand up against the support Chick-fil-A gives anti-gay organizations.

The small group did not venture inside the restaurant, but stood in the parking lot. Inside, Chick-fil-A employees conducted business as usual, serving typical Friday night crowds.

Fred Bennett, a Chattanooga resident, made a special trip to Chick-fil-A on Friday night, but not to join the Kiss-In. He just wanted to offer to buy the protesters a meal.

"I was praying this morning, and I said, 'Lord, what would you do?' And he said, 'I'd go there and offer to buy them a meal.' So I did."

Bennett said he was worried that the protesters would be poorly treated.

"There's a lot of people who express a lot of hatred and disgust for people who don't agree with them, like homosexual people," he said. "Biblically I don't support what they are doing, but I'm not against them as people."

Magdaleno Roman took a day off of work so he could attend the Kiss-In.

"I was expecting there to be more people," he said, holding a homemade sign. "It's kind of disappointing, but at least I'm here."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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