ATLANTA — Chick-fil-A’s founder had a simple message for the world as he lay dying last week, and it had nothing to do with encouraging people to eat more chicken. Before passing away, the 93-year-old S. Truett Cathy asked that his restaurant chain open its doors on Sundays to same-sex couples looking to marry.
According to family members gathered at the time, the conservative Southern Baptist belatedly had come to the conclusion that “God has room in his heart for everyone, and we have room in our restaurants on Sundays to welcome them all.”
Chick-fil-A’s “closed-on-Sunday” policy long has been a cornerstone of the business, reflecting its stated corporate purpose: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward to all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
The chain came in contact with boycotts, protests and LGBT kiss-ins after Cathy’s son Dan, who now heads the company, defended corporate donations to groups seeking to preserve “traditional marriage” in 2012.
At the time, Dan Cathy proudly proclaimed that the company was “guilty as charged” for following biblical principles. “Most of the big ones, anyway,” he added, “like keeping the Sabbath and the sanctity of marriage. We’re not about to run a kosher kitchen.”
Since then, the younger Cathy came to regret “making the company a symbol in the marriage debate,” as a poor business decision. “The wiser thing for us to do is stay focused on customer service.”
Said the bereaved son in a written statement, “In his last days, my father’s views on gay marriage obviously evolved. While I cannot say that I fully understand what led him to this particular dying wish, I take his words as gospel and will see them through.”
The chain plans to rent out space for free on Sundays to same-sex couples looking to exchange vows, thereby maintaining Cathy’s prohibition on dealing with money on the “Lord’s Day.”
While the restaurants’ doors will be open on Sundays, the spirit of the original policy remains intact, said a company spokesman. “The only difference is that employees won’t have to go home and change into their Sunday best to spend time at church with their loved ones. They’re welcome to come as they are to partake in the wedding party. Hairnets optional.”
Stephen Fitch, a self-described evangelical and long-time customer, said that he would continue to patronize the restaurant, so long as the chain does not change its slogan to “Eat more [male chicken].”