Editor's Note: TO VIEW A PATCH VIDEO FEATURE ON CHICK-FIL-A APPRECIATION DAY IN CERRITOS, INCLUDING INTERVIEWS WITH SUPPORTERS.
Thousands of people stood in lines at the eatery Wednesday as part of a national effort to support the chain that came under fire when its chief executive spoke out against same-sex marriage.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit," Dan Cathy, president and CEO of the fast food chain, told the Baptist Press last month. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
The comments by Cathy sparked some calls for boycotts of the restaurant and even some talk of banning the chain from opening franchises in some cities.
But on Wednesday, business at the Cerritos Chick-fil-A located outside had been out the door since 10 a.m. as thousands came out to support Cathy's right to free speech.
Locals Speak Out in Support of Chick-fil-A, Freedom of Religion, Speech and Free Enterprise
Mike Gomes, a Cerritos resident, said he learned of the event during his lunchbreak earlier this week, and that he and several co-workers planned to show their support of the CEO's beliefs.
"I'm Catholic ... it's not right for gays and gay marriages. And I'm here in support, he (Cathy) just said a simple comment," Gomes said. "...for what they're telling him, he can't expand in Boston, that's not right, you know. It's not right, just for a comment."
Lydia Anguiano, who has lived in Cerritos for 39 years, said she and her daughter Debbie were there in support of other reasons.
"We decided we'd come in support not only for religious freedom but for freedom of speech," Anguiano said, adding that she was surprised over the huge turnout but didn't mind waiting "a little over an hour" for her food. "It's worth it!" she said.
Similar rallies were held at locations around the country as part of a movement called "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," which was declared by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
"Banning a business from cities around the country because of their political opinion is un-American, and it is not freedom and it is not liberty," a Northridge protester told CBS2. "This is supposed to be a free country."
Cerritos Chick-fil-A Owner Thanks Supporters
Brenda Hensen, who along with her husband Robert own the Cerritos restaurant as well the Lakewood location at 4895 Candlewood St. across from the Lakewood Mall, told Patch that the massive turnout was unexpected.
"We just really want to thank all the customers for coming out in support of Chick-fil-A," Hensen said. "We didn't set up the event and we didn't know what to expect but the line has been out the door all day long. People are waiting and willing to wait like 20 to 25 minutes for their order and nobody's complaining. Everybody is just happy to be here in support and we just want to thank everyone."
Chick-fil-A echoed Hensen's comments in an official statement noting that it did not organize the nationwide event, but said the company appreciates "all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time."
Cerritos Location Runs Out of Food Supplies With More Than 2,000 Served
Customers waited patiently in a line filed out the door throughout the day with dozens already inside the jampacked restaurant. The huge stream of supporters had been so steady that the eatery ran out of buns at about 7 p.m., forcing one of the employees to make a run to Costco to replenish the stock. Whipped cream used for milkshakes and American cheese were also among the items no longer avaialble due to the overwhelming turnout.
At about 8 p.m., restaurant management estimated that they had already "easily served at least 2,000 customers," and at that point the line outside the restaurant was longer than it had been the entire day with more than 100 people still waiting to order. The business normally closes at 10 p.m., although it was unclear whether that would be the case with so many patrons still in line.
Hensen said the Lakewood location, where her husband was working, also experienced a good turnout of support.
Protesters Speak Out at Some Southland Locations
At other Southland locations, dozens of protesters countered the support drives blasting Cathy's stance on same-sex marriage.
"The gay and lesbian community, LGBT community, is one that's been persecuted for a long time," one protester at a Chick-fil-A in Hollywood told ABC7. "... I think it's time that they got the opportunity to get the rights that they deserve."
"Those kind of messages and that kind of rhetoric is very, very hurtful to our families," another protester told the station. "You know, we have families. We have children. We have parents."
- City News Service contributed to a portion of this report
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