MOBILE, Alabama -- Carly McGehee has been planning a “kiss-in” for months.
The 24-year-old with Texas roots said she’s been searching for ways to bring visibility to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community’s movement for equality. And then the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain became a flash point recently when its president, Dan Cathy, publicly supported the “biblical definition of the family unit,” calling gay-marriage advocates “arrogant.”
Hence McGehee’s “National Same-Sex Kiss Day,” to be held at 7 tonight in the central time zone, in front of at least one Chick-fil-A store in each of the 38 states in which the company operates. The event comes two days after supporters of of traditional marriage and Cathy’s free-speech rights helped push the 1,600 Chick-fil-A restaurants to “record-setting” sales on Wednesday, according to a company spokesman.
The day had been declared “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” by national proponents of “traditional” marriage, including former presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. People in Mobile and Baldwin counties waited in hourlong lines at area Chick-fil-A stores throughout the day and night Wednesday, declaring their support for the company and its view on marriage.
The Press-Register attempted to reach Chick-fil-A company representatives for comment Thursday, but did not receive a response.
The newspaper also sought out McGehee, who lives now in New York and said in an interview, “We hope to show Chick-fil-A and America that our love is just as good as anyone else’s love.”
She said the goal of “National Same-Sex Kiss Day” is for people who support the “LBGT community” — regardless of sexual orientation — to kiss someone of the same gender in front of the Chick-fil-A sign at each location. Some supporters across the country, McGehee said, plan on actually purchasing something from the menu using bills with “Gay Money” printed on them.
“It’s to say ‘Look, this is gay money and it’s helping you out,’” she said.
Mobile police spokesman Cpl. Christopher Levy said officers have a plan for dealing with any disturbance participants in the event may create, and that “We’ll monitor the situation, and only put that plan in place if it’s necessary.”
McGehee insists, however, that the interruption of commerce at those restaurants is not the goal of the “kiss-in,” just visibility for the movement.
“I personally think that what we’re doing is the most effective way to get our voice and our issues heard, because we’re not just voting with our money but voting with our feet,” she said.
Members of the Spectrum student group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgenders at the University of South Alabama support gay marriage, and say they even held a sit-in at the restaurant’s campus location during the school year, long before Dan Cathy’s remarks.
USA senior Patrick Collins, co-president of Spectrum, said the student group has filed an injunction against USA to get the school to “end their contract with Chick-fil-A.”
He said he prefers a local restaurant that doesn’t hold the same beliefs as the national chain.
“Not only does it benefit local economics, it doesn’t show our school as being biased toward any organization,” said Collins.
In addition to the protests during the school year, the USA Spectrum group has handed out fliers to inform students about Chick-fil-A’s position toward gay marriage, said Collins.
Lauren Jacobs, president of Spectrum at the University of Alabama, said they have also tried to educate their students about Chick-fil-A’s philosophy and what groups benefit from the restaurant’s profits.
She said they want students to know where their money goes when they purchase food from Chick-fil-A.
Equality is the endgame goal, according to “National Same-Sex Kiss Day” founder McGehee. And today is a chance for like-minded individuals to “take part in the democratic system,” she said.
“I’m denied my rights as a human being,” McGehee said. “And until I can live and love whoever I want, despite their gender, I’m not going to stop.
“I can’t stop.”
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