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Chick-fil-A controversy reaches Kansas universities

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, July 26, 2012, at 5:41 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, July 27, 2012, at 1:32 p.m.

— The national controversy involving Chick-fil-A has reached Kansas, where online petitions at two state universities are demanding the removal of the restaurant chain from their campuses.

Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, during an interview with a religious publication last week, said he supported the “biblical definition of the family unit” when asked about gay marriage. Some groups have protested Cathy’s remarks and organized a boycott of the fast-food chain; others have offered their support of Cathy and his restaurant.

A petition to remove Chick-fil-A from the Rhatigan Student Center at Wichita State University had more than 450 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. The petition was created Wednesday by Katelyn Delvaux, a WSU graduate student, according to the online petition at change.org.

WSU contracts with Sodexo to provide food service on campus, WSU officials said in a statement Thursday. Sodexo in turn contracts with Chick-fil-A.

WSU said in its statement that “the university has no reason to believe that anyone has been refused service at Chick-fil-A on campus for sexual orientation or any other factor involving discrimination. If WSU receives information that someone served on campus has been discriminated against, the university would work with Sodexo to review and address the situation.”

A University of Kansas petition to remove Chick-fil-A from Memorial Unions had more than 1,600 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. It was started by James Castle, a 2012 KU grad, according to the petition’s website. There is also a petition to keep the restaurant at KU.

“Right now we are waiting and seeing what comments are coming in,” said Mark Reid, director of public affairs for KU Memorial Unions. “We are two years out with the end of our contract with Chick-fil-A right now. We are at a wait-and-see approach, talking to people on campus and off.”

Dozens of other college students nationally have started online petitions to remove Chick-fil-A from their campuses.

In Wichita, the city’s first Chick-fil-A store opened at Central and Rock in March. A second store at 21st and Maize is scheduled to open Aug. 9.

Franchise owner Brad Fuller declined to comment on the controversy, referring questions to corporate headquarters in Atlanta.

Chick-fil-A said in a statement earlier this week: “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent owner/operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

Since Cathy’s remarks surfaced, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have told the chain it is not welcome and said they will block the chain’s plans to build more stores in their cities.

Muppets creator Jim Henson’s company last week severed a toy deal it recently launched with Chick-fil-A, although reports on Wednesday said Chick-fil-A told customers the toys were being dropped because of unspecified “defects.”

Gay and lesbian groups have called for protests at a store opening next week in California and want same-sex couples to kiss at Chick-fil-A locations on National Same-Sex Kiss Day next week.

There have also been movements to support Chick-fil-A. Former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has declared next Wednesday National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, in support of Cathy.

Contributing: New York Times News Service

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