Veronica Roberts

The Chick-fil-A fallout has taken a decidedly different turn and some are asking whether this is a civil rights, First Amendment rights issue or both.

The firestorm was ignited when the fast food chain's president and CEO Dan Cathy reportedly said that he believed in traditional marriage as stipulated in the Bible, which is another way of saying he is against same-sex marriage. Cathy is a very conservative, religious man, so much so that Chick-fil-A closes on Sundays, the day set aside as the Sabbath by many Christians.

The criticism was fast and furious, and many have called for the boycott of the chain. Gay rights groups say consumers should never bite into another Chick-fil-A sandwich again; "Sesame Street" has cut all ties, with the Jim Henson Company pulling their muppet toys from the kids meals; several towns are warning the chain to take their "intolerance" and skip their neck of the woods.

James Kenny, a Philadelphia city councilman, is the latest public official to throw more than his two cents into the fray, saying the chicken outlet should take its bigotry elsewhere and that they are not welcomed in his city.

The controversy has taken on a partisan political fight, as things seems to go in the U.S. these days. While most of the flack for the chicken franchise comes from the left, support comes from the right with conservatives like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee openly throwing his support behind the 1,600 restaurants. Turning the tables on critics, who are calling Cathy a bigot, Huckabee interestingly is also calling these critics bigots.

He took to Facebook this week calling for a "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day," writing that the criticism of the food chain was "vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry." CNN reported on Friday that over 250,000 people have agreed to support the chicken outlet on that day.

Amid all the partisan, pandering noise, some are asking a few sobering questions. Is Cathy's statement free speech, thus protected under the First Amendment or is being against gay marriage a civil rights issue? Futhermore, are those mayors barring the chicken chain from opening restaurants in their town violating Chick-Fil-A's proprietary rights, which are covered under the Civil Rights Act?

Gay marriage has not been legalized on the federal level, only by six States: New York, Vermont, Massachusets, Iowa, New Hampshire and Connecticut. Washington D.C. and two Native American tribes--Oregon Coquille and Washington State's Suquamish -- also recognize same-sex marriages as legal.

President Obama only recently spoke out in support of equal marriage rights for all, when he was "publicly prodded" by Vice President Biden. Many states still vehemently oppose same-sex marriage, citing traditional, biblical unions are the only morally right ones.

Blacks were once legally discriminated against on a national level and institutionalized racism was dealt with only 48 years ago with the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Businesses, schools and neighborhoods were legally forced to integrate, to hire, rent and sell properties to every American and were barred from discriminating based on race, religion, sex, diabilities, ethnicity or creed.

Gay and lesbian advocacy groups say their right to marry is the same--a civil rights issue. Do you agree? Let's keep in mind that marriage is first and foremost a legal act. Religion comes second. One cannot legally marry in a church or religious ceremony without a marriage license.

Incidentally, some critics of the Chick-fil-A president's anti-gay marriage statement say he is a hypocrite, for his restaurants serve bacon, though pork is prohibited in the same Bible he is using to defend his anti-gay sentiments.

What do you think? Let's have a civil conversation, no pun intended.

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