New Hampshire’s only Chick-fil-A store has reportedly pledged to co-sponsor an LGBT Pride Festival in the state.
In doing so it is breaking with the chicken chain's founder Dan Cathy, who has taken a highly publicized stance against gay marriage.
In a statement on the New Hampshire Pride Festival website and cited by several media outlets, Nashua Chick-fil-A franchise manager Anthony Picolia said he was backing the Aug. 11 event, citing "positive relationships with family, friends, customers and employees in the LGBT community."
"It would make me sad if someone felt that they were not openly welcomed into my life or restaurant based on their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender," the statement said.
"Chick-fil-A at Pheasant Lane Mall has gay employees and serves gay customers with honor, dignity and respect. We also don’t discriminate in giving back to the Nashua community, donating to a wide variety of causes.
"I would challenge people to come have a conversation with me before they make assumptions or boycott my restaurant. Come to my restaurant and see for yourself that my team and I only have one mission: To serve exceptional experiences to all."
According to reports, the sponsorship pledge came about after a chance meeting between Picolia and Ryan Manseau, senior director of NH Pride Fest.
CBS cited an interview in which Manseau told WBZ-TV that he had been handing out NH Pride Fest fliers at the Pheasant Lane Mall when he noticed Manseau holding one at the Chick-fil-A.
He approached the man, whom he assumed to be a manager, "bracing for a verbal confrontation," CBS reported.
The man turned out to be Picolia, the franchise operator, who agreed to help sponsor the event and even serve Chick-Fil-A sandwiches there.
Same-sex marriage is legal in New Hampshire.
Cathy, the Chick-fil-A CEO, recently told the Baptist Press: “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
He also told a Christian radio station that he prayed for God’s mercy because this generation’s “prideful, arrogant attitude” gave it the "audacity" to redefine marriage.
The Nashua Telegraph interviewed customers outside the Pheasant Lane Mall food court, where Manseau's franchise is located, as saying they would no longer go to the restaurant because of Cathy's comments.
Emily Vasser told the paper: "He didn’t have any right to say it. It wasn’t his place to say it. Someone’s sexual preference has nothing to do with selling chicken.”
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