Atlanta Chick-fil-A protest fizzles

Four people — two dressed in cow costumes wearing sandwich boards that read “Moor equality” and “What’s your beef wif gay people?” — showed up at the corner of Centennial Park across from CNN to protest the Chick-fil-A Leadercast taking place at the nearby Georgia World Congress Center.

While the protest was scheduled from noon to 3 p.m., it ended at 1 p.m. because organizers had to return to work.

The small group of Queer Justice League and GetEQUAL GA supporters handed out “coupons” to passersby stating, “Reserve your free Bigot-fil-A Deluxe” with a list of some of the Atlanta-based fast-food restaurant’s anti-gay donations, including $1,000 to the Family Research Council, $5,000 to the Alliance Defense Fund and $15,000 to Serving Marriages Inc.

Paul Schappaugh of GetEQUAL GA acknowledged the crowd was small but said the idea of the protest was to raise awareness about Chick-fil-A’s opposition to LGBT equality.

Other protests of Chick-fil-A were taking place across the country by other GetEQUAL groups, he added.

Schappaugh said plans were to contact Coca-Cola’s CEO and board chair Muhtar Kent, one of the Leadercast’s “Voices of Service” speakers. Coca-Cola has scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for its dedication to LGBT employees and his participation on the conference was “disappointing,” Schappaugh said.

Delta Air Lines, a sponsor of the Leadercast Conference, has also scored 100 percent of the CEI. Schappaugh said he planned to contact executives with the Atlanta-based airline to point out supporting Chick-fil-A’s conference went against their stated principals on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

One woman who wanted a “coupon” was disappointed to realize it wasn’t for an actual Chick-fil-A sandwich. When she read the coupon, she said she thought the company was donating to worthy causes.

“It’s a Christian company. Those are good causes,” she said, declining to give her name.

Zion Kelley, 34, of Atlanta, also took one of the coupons being passed out and said while he doesn’t support gay rights himself, he believed the handful of protesters had a right to say what they wanted to say. He also said he doesn’t each much at Chick-fil-A, but knows it’s a Christian-based company.

“Their morals are based on the Bible,” he said, saying a private company had the right to implement its own policies.

Nerissa Belcher, a transsexual nursing student at Kennesaw State University, was wearing a cow costume as part of the small protest. She said she attended because she believes in equality for all people and “that includes gays and also includes Christians.”

“I think a lot of time Christians don’t realize most of us support their causes as well as our causes. We just don’t want us to get in each others way.  Chick-fil-A is probably a very good organization, I’d just like to see them expand their philosophy and be good to everyone and not just some people,” Belcher added.

Ryan Knight, 27, of Atlanta, was leaving the World Congress Center carrying a Chick-fil-A boxed lunch at about 1 p.m. When asked about the protest, he said he understood there was controversy because of the company’s funding of organizations that don’t support same-sex marriage.

“I think they’re just about serving people and didn’t mean to insult anyone. It’s definitely a tough issue,” he said. “I don’t think a company should tell anyone they’re doing anything wrong. I guess internally the company has the right to hire people they want.”

Knight described himself as a “loyal customer” of Chick-fil-A.

“I’ve always felt served and loved by them,” he said. “I would hope that if a gay person went into a Chick-fil-A they would serve them just as well as they serve me.”

Top photo: Paul Schappaugh of GetEQUAL GA was one of four protesters today at the Chick-fil-A Leadercast Conference held at the Georgia World Congress Center. (by Dyana Bagby)