Iowa’s largest gay rights advocacy group, One Iowa, stayed away from central Iowa's only Chick-fil-A restaurant, where a national “Kiss In” was planned Friday to protest the anti-gay-marriage statements made by the chain’s president in June.
One Iowa, whose spokeswoman said the group is fighting off an “outright attack” on Iowa’s same-sex marriage law, wasn’t alone. Same Sex Kiss Day, as the counter protest was officially known, fizzled in West Des Moines, where Chick-fil-A has a restaurant in Jordan Creek Town Center.
The lunch-hour crowd at the food counter – swelled by back-to-school shoppers taking advantage of the start of the Iowa sales tax holiday – seemed similar in numbers to other fast-food restaurants in the food court.
Customers at the restaurant declined to be interviewed and Randy Tennison, general manager, said the company “isn’t conducting interviews” and said media soliciting questions of guests would be ejected.
The dustup doesn’t appear to have hurt Chick-fil-A’s business, which claimed record sales Wednesday as customers flocked to stores around the country in support of CEO Dan Cathy, whose June 16 comments on a syndicated radio program created a controversy.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives,” Cathy reportedly said. “We give God thanks for that."
The company, which is privately held, said only that it was a record-setting day, but did not release sales figures.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose presidential aspirations went nowhere in 2008 despite having won Iowa’s caucuses by courting evangelical voters, organized a Chick-fil-A customer appreciation day after the company and its president came under attack for Cathy's comments, which some equal rights groups called intolerant.
Through its charitable WinShape Foundation, the nationally franchised restaurant Chick-fil-A supports such groups as the National Organization for Marriage, the Ruth Institute, the Pennsylvania Family Institute, Focus on the Family and Exodus International, among others, all fighting to ban marriage for same-sex couples and some advocating to "cure" homosexuality, the Huffington Post reported.
Fox News reported that the Chick-fil-A foundation has given “donated millions of dollars to groups that lobby against legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. Chick-fil-A reported sales of $4.1 billion in 2011.
One Iowa Watching for Family Leader Forum Developments
Though One Iowa didn’t participate in the Kiss In, the organization will be closely watching what happens next week when Huckabee and the 2010 Iowa caucus winner, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, headline the Family Leadership Summit sponsored by The Family Leader, founded by Bob VanderPlaats, who unsuccessfully campaigned for Iowa governor three times.
Both Huckabee and Santorum campaigned vigorously against gay marriage, and The Family Leader played a substantial role in ousting three Supreme Court justices in 2010. One Iowa expects Justice David Wiggins’ retention vote on Nov. 6 to be a big topic of discussion in Iowa.
This week, Iowa Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker “crossed a line” when he urged voters to throw Wiggins off the bench, One Iowa's Molly Tafoya said.
“The 2010 judicial retention election was a difficult loss and now opponents of marriage equality and fair courts are at it again, going after Justice Wiggins,” Tafoya said. “This is a big important issue, not only to LGBT families, but to anyone who values fair and impartial courts. Courts should be free of insular politics.”
The Iowa Constitution was amended about 50 years ago to remove partisan politics from the selection of judges.
“Fair courts are an important part of healthy democracy,” Tafoya said. “It was an outright attack on marriage equality law.”