Large crowds descended on local Chick-fil-A restaurants to have their say in a controversy involving gay marriage.
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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Hukabee called for Wednesday to be "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" in support of the company and CEO Dan Cathy, whose statements drew threats of a boycott from gay marriage backers and condemnation from the mayors of Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Last month, Cathy said, "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit."
The walk-in line at the Chick-fil-A restaurant on Sports Arena Boulvard stretched into and around the parking lot at lunchtime, with a back-up for the drive-thru window.
Just before noon, 10News discovered a long line of customers about 100 waiting to get into the restaurant.
During the dinner rush, the line grew to about 300 people. The drive-thru line was about 80 vehicles deep.
"This is something I believe in," said Orpha Dickinson. "I believe in America's values and one woman, one man for a marriage. I've come out to support that viewpoint."
Long lines were also reported at the company's locations in Chula Vista and San Marcos.
"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," one Southern California restaurant supporter said. "This is supposed to be a free country."
"The gay and lesbian community, LGBT community, is one that's been persecuted for a long time," a Southern California protester said. "... I think it's time that they got the opportunity to get the rights that they deserve."
The recent comments by Chick-fil-A's CEO sparked some calls for boycotts of its restaurants and even some talk of banning the chain from opening franchises in some cities.
In Laguna Hills last week, nearly three dozen people attended the grand opening of a Chick-fil-A location, many carrying signs with messages such as "Eat Mor Equality" and "Will God Judge Me for Loving or Judge You for Hating?"
Opponents did not show up Wednesday but on Friday, a nationwide same-sex kiss event is planned at Chick-fil-A restaurants, including two local ones.
"We had employees from different locations in San Diego say they want us to do this ... take a stand for equality," said Holly Hellerstedt, the field director for Canvass for a Cause.
Customers who showed up Wednesday said they are taking their own stand.
"I believe everyone should have a right to believe what they want and shouldn't be bullied into believing otherwise," said Nani Patilla.
Elmer Van Horn told 10News, "I waited more than an hour, and I would have waited four hours."
Chick-fil-A issued a statement noting that it did not organize Wednesday's events, but said the company appreciates "all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time."
There are six Chick-fil-A restaurant locations in San Diego County.
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