The president of the popular fast food chain Chick-fil-A has ignited a social media firestorm after saying his company opposes gay marriage.
"Guilty as charged," Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press when asked about the Atlanta-based company's support of the traditional family unit.
"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. We give God thanks for that," he said in the interview, posted Monday.
While Cathy's comments are in line with Chick-fil-A's history of espousing Christian values -- its 1,600 chicken restaurants are closed Sundays -- his remarks touched off a wave of anger on the company's Facebook page.
"Disappointed in a company that believes in upholding the bible- except for 'all men are equal in God's eyes'. No longer a fan- and will no longer eat in your restaurants. Leave judgement to God and God alone," read a post by Beth Hutter.
"Hate mongers! Never again! Not another $ from me," Duke Richards wrote.
"One customer lost," Nick Dialfredi posted simply.
But others rallied behind the company, writing messages in support of Cathy's comments.
"Thank you Chick-Fil-A for standing up for family values! I will stand with you and support you by eating in your restaurants!" Tonia Sullivan Mahaffey posted.
Jennifer Wyatt Burgum wrote, "I love your food AND your values!"
Another supporter posted, "Thank you for all that you stand for and support. My family will in turn support your business wholeheartedly!"
In a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Chick-fil-A spokesman Don Perry said the company does not want to debate the issue of same-sex marriage.
"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of belief, creed and sexual orientation," the statement said. "We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
According to the Journal Constitution, the company also came under fire from gay rights groups last year after an independent operator in Pennsylvania supplied food to a group working to defeat pro-same-sex marriage measures.
Cathy acknowledged to the Baptist Press the company's position was bound to be unpopular with some people, and possibly lose some customers.
"We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles," he said.
One of those customers appears to be actor Ed Helms, known for his roles on NBC's "The Office" and in "The Hangover." Helms tweeted Wednesday, "Chick-Fil-A doesn't like gay people? So lame. Hate to think what they do to the gay chickens! Lost a loyal fan."