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  • More than 100 people lined up at the Chick-fil-A restaurant inside the Pheasant Lane Mall Wednesday in support of CEO Dan Cathy's opposition to gay marriage. Staff photo Will Wrobel
  • Staff file photo

    The Chick-fil-A restaurant inside the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua is shown Aug. 1, 2012. The Atlanta-based chain plans to serve only chicken raised without antibiotics within the next five years and is working with suppliers to build up an adequate supply for its nearly 1,800 restaurants.
  • Hundreds of people were lined up in the Pheasant Lane Mall Wednesday afternoon to purchase Chick-fil-A. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had encouraged people to show their support for the chain on Wednesday, "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." Photo by Kaitlin Joseph.
Thursday, August 2, 2012

Nashua Chick-fil-A owner backing gay pride festival

NASHUA – While hundreds of people lined up at his restaurant to support his boss’ views on gay marriage Wednesday, Chick-fil-A franchise owner Anthony Piccola was expressing a different opinion.

Piccola is helping to sponsor the New Hampshire Pride Fest, which will be held from noon-5 p.m. Aug. 11 at Veterans Memorial Park in Manchester, according to organizers.

“In the midst of a controversy over remarks by Chick-fil-A’s president regarding marriage equality, Piccola decided to take a ‘Live Free or Die’ attitude towards the festival,” read a press release from organizers of the fest.

Piccola spoke out last week after comments by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy and said he is friends with and employs people who are gay and does not discriminate against anyone.

“As an independent franchise operator, I am dedicated to supporting our community in the best way possible, and we give to a wide variety of causes in Nashua,” he said in a prepared statement. “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

Piccola said sponsoring something like the Pride Fest isn’t unusual for his franchise but that the timing given the national controversy has “blown it out of proportion.”

Hundreds of people lined up at the Chick-fil-A restaurant inside the Pheasant Lane Mall on Wednesday in response to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, who declared Aug. 1 be national “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” That followed the comments of Cathy condemning gay marriage.

Last week, several customers outside the Pheasant Lane Mall food court said they would no longer go to the restaurant because of the CEO’s comments.

“He didn’t have any right to say it. It wasn’t his place to say it,” Emily Vasser said. “Someone’s sexual preference has nothing to do with selling chicken.”

Several others said the controversy is much ado about nothing and that Cathy has the right to believe, and say, whatever he chooses.

Cathy told a Christian radio station he prays for God’s mercy because this generation’s “prideful, arrogant attitude” gave it the “audacity” to redefine marriage. He later stood by his comments, telling Baptist Press he supports the “biblical definition of the family unit.”

Opponents of the company’s stance are planning “Kiss Mor Chiks” for Friday, when they are encouraging people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country and kiss each other.

Tara Powell, one of the organizers of the Pride Fest, said in a statement on her website she’s happy to have Piccola and Chick-fil-A at the celebration.

“The sponsorship is just another example of how great New Hampshire is to the LGBT community,” she said in a statement.

Powell did not return a phone call Wednesday.

Associated Press reports were used in this story. Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).