Anthony Picolia, manager of the only Chick-fil-A outlet in NH., is sponsoring the NH Pride Fest. His support for the gay community comes in the midst of controversy sparked by remarks of the company's president Dan Cathy, in support of anti-gay groups.
Digital Journal reports Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, told the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta-based company was "guilty as charged" for supporting "the biblical definition of a family." His statement unleashed a flood of criticism from gay rights groups and their supporters.
According to The Boston Herald, the owner of Chick-fil-A in Nashua, NH., an independent franchise operator at the Pheasant Lane Mall, is donating sandwiches to the upcoming festival celebrating gay rights. Reuters reports he said: "I would challenge people to come have a conversation with me before they make assumptions or boycott my restaurant."
A release by the NH Pride Festival organizer quotes Picolia, saying: “In both my personal and professional life, I have had and continue to have positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community. It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
Picolia continued: "Chick-fil-A at Pheasant Lane Mall has gay employees and serves gay customers with honor, dignity and respect. We also don’t discriminate in giving back to the Nashua community, donating to a wide variety of causes... Come to my restaurant and see for yourself that my team and I only have one mission: To serve exceptional experiences to all.”
The Boston Herald reports that Picolia said Wednesday that the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition strives to treat every person with "honor, dignity and respect, regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
According to Nashua Telegraph, hundreds of people lined up at the Nashua Chick-fil-A restaurant in response to a call by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who, according to Digital Journal, declared August 1 “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” The call follows criticisms and widespread condemnation of Cathy's declaration of support for the anti-gay agenda.
WMUR 6 reports that a Pheasant Lane Mall employee, Jack Guyette said, "There was easily 300 to 400 people in line, easily."
But Picolia expressed a different opinion. Nashua Telegraph reports he said in a prepared statement: “As an independent franchise operator, I am dedicated to supporting our community in the best way possible, and we give to a wide variety of causes in Nashua... The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
Picolia said sponsoring something like the Pride Fest isn’t unusual for his franchise but that the timing given the national controversy has “blown it out of proportion.”
Nashua Telegraph reports that many of those who gathered outside the restaurant in response to Huckabee's call for a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," said they would no longer patronize the restaurant because of Picolia's comment. Emily Vasser said: “He didn’t have any right to say it. It wasn’t his place to say it. Someone’s sexual preference has nothing to do with selling chicken.”
According to Tara Powell, one of the organizers of the gay pride festival, the gay community in New Hampshire is looking forward to working with Picolia. Powell said: “This sponsorship is just another example of how great New Hampshire is to the LGBT community. We are looking forward to having a great Pride Fest, and are very excited to have Chick-Fil-A involved.”
According to CBS Boston, Ryan Manseau, director of the New Hampshire Pride Festival, said he was handing out fliers at the Pheasant Lane Mall to promote the festival when he saw Picolia holding one of the fliers. Manseau said he approached him expecting a verbal confrontation but Picolia said he was willing to help sponsor the event.
WMUR 6 reports Manseau said: "We were ready for confrontation. We were ready for him to call security, try to sue us for solicitation, anything. Instead he's, like, 'This is the end of the culture war. We want to be with you. This is what's right, and this is what we want to do.'"
The Boston Herald reports that opponents of the company's anti-gay stance are planning a "Kiss Mor Chiks" event for Friday. The campaign encourages gays to show up at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country and kiss each other.
The Inquistr reports that meanwhile, a prominent liberal has defended Chick-fil-A’s free speech rights under the First Amendment. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a same-sex marriage supporter, told Newsmax that city mayors who are saying they will prevent Chick-fil-A from doing business in their cities are engaging in “terrible intolerance.” Dershowitz said that “state-sponsored discrimination based on pure ideology in expression of religious views... is unconstitutional.”
Dershowitz, according to The Inquistr, said the "marketplace of ideas must remain open and the marketplace for chicken must remain open, and let people decide to buy their chicken either on the quality of the chicken or on the ideas of the owner of the chicken company... the state has no role to play in picking and choosing one ideology over the other."
The New Hampshire Pride Festival, according to the organizers, revives an old tradition in the state and is scheduled from noon to 5:00 p.m. on August 11, 2012 at the Veterans Memorial Park in Manchester. According to the organizers, the festival is a family event and families are encouraged to attend.