In Gay-Rights Protest, Students Try to Push Chick-fil-A Off Campuses

Richard B. Levine, Photoshot, Newscom

New York U. students and supporters protested the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A this past spring over its opposition to same-sex marriage.
August 01, 2012

College students across the country have taken to Facebook, Twitter, and other social-media sites to campaign for the closure of Chick-fil-A restaurants on their campuses, after weeks of controversy over the fast-food chain's public opposition to same-sex marriage and its donations to like-minded advocacy groups.

While a former presidential candidate and governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, proclaimed Wednesday to be national Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day—and supporters stood in long lines to eat in some restaurants, according to news reports—students circulated petitions demanding that campus locations be closed.

Tim Reis, a student at Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C., posted on the Web site a petition to close the Chick-fil-A there. "Time and again I have seen our students, faculty, and staff stand together to fight injustice," the petition says. "With all of this, it seems to mock our very sense of self to continue to financially support Chick-fil-A when it so ardently insists on using that money to further causes which are unjust and intolerant."

Katelyn Delvaux, a graduate student at Wichita State University, started a petition with same goal for the Kansas campus. "This petition is not meant to be viewed as an attack on Chick-fil-A," supporters explain in a written statement. "It is instead a defense of Wichita State's values and dedication to its students, staff, and faculty."

Similar petitions appear on for the closure of Chick-fil-A restaurants at, among other campuses, Columbus State University, in Georgia; New York University; South Dakota State University; the Universities of Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and Southern Mississippi; and the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. Students at the Universities of Delaware, Illinois, and Oklahoma started Facebook pages aimed at removing their campus Chick-fil-A's.

Just 28 percent of students at four-year institutions nationwide identify themselves as "liberal," according to the most recent Freshman Survey by the University of California at Los Angeles's Higher Education Research Institute, but more than 70 percent support same-sex marriage.

Packed Restaurants

But at some colleges, Chick-fil-A restaurants were packed on Wednesday. The line at one at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities extended down a hallway, according to a photograph posted online by a representative of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, a conservative think tank.

Officials at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va., came out in support of the fast-food chain and encouraged employees to eat at the restaurant on Wednesday. "Liberty University and Chick-fil-A share the same fundamental Christian values," administrators said in a written statement. "Today, Liberty will esteem Chick-fil-A's strong Christian leadership as well as their courageous stance on biblical principles in the face of the media scrutiny."

While students have mounted protests against the restaurants on various campuses before, the controversy flared to a new level in mid-July when the chain's president, Dan T. Cathy, said the nation was "inviting God's judgment" by supporting same-sex marriage. Chick-fil-A, he said, was in favor of "the biblical definition of the family unit." The chain's charitable foundation, WinShape, has donated millions to groups advocating antigay causes, including nearly $2-million in 2009 alone, according to the gay-rights group Equality Matters.

It is not yet clear how the debate will play out on campuses. At the University of Louisville, where student groups have raised concerns about Chick-fil-A, officials released a statement last week calling Mr. Cathy's statements "offensive and unnecessary." On Wednesday, however, the university's president, James R. Ramsey, and provost, Shirley Willihnganz, issued a statement saying the institution would take no action.

Louisville is an institution "that treasures diversity," the statement says, and "that steadfastly supports free speech—even if that speech goes against our values. We respect an individual's right to disagree. We respect an individual's right to choose where they spend their money."