MONTGOMERY, AL (RNN) - Remember when a sandwich was just a sandwich?
Thousands lined up out front doors, around buildings and sometimes down the block at Chick-fil-A locations across the country Wednesday amid a broiling controversy that has turned a simple chicken sandwich into a hot button political debate.
More than 650,000 people signed up to attend "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" via Facebook.
Spearheaded by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the day comes in response to cries by some to boycott the fast food restaurant after the company's president said Chick-fil-A is "guilty as charged" when it comes to its support of traditional marriage.
"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," Dan Cathy recently told the Baptist Press.
"We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
Facebook RSVP or not, supporters showed up in droves.
Some customers spent their entire lunch break in line, reporting waits upwards of an hour to bag a simple sandwich and fries.
David Adger, general manager of a Chick-fil-A in Montgomery, AL, said business at his location doubled, with people lining up outside the door all day.
"The customers had a great attitude, I didn't see anybody getting upset [about the wait]," he said. "Everybody had a smile on their face and that was good news."
"I knew we'd have a pretty big day. Not like this, not to this level. We did prep enough food in case it did happen so we didn't run out."
Other locations weren't so lucky. Faced with an onslaught of business, the Prattville, AL Chick-fil-A closed early after running out of chicken.
Montgomery resident Melanie Bolling waited 35 minutes at her local Chick-fil-A because she said a group calling for a boycott "because they don't like something is a bit extreme."
For Bolling, it all boils down to freedom of speech.
"As a small business owner, I believe businesses have a right to support the causes they want to support," she said.
"It's freedom of business choice, to not be bullied by a special interest group into conforming. It's about the freedom of a company that's founded on a specific set of values to maintain those values."
On the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Facebook page, poster Zephra Brown said she drove 300 miles to participate.
But while many spoke their minds by showing up, others did the same by staying home.
"I stayed away because I think legal marriage is a government issue, and the government cannot afford to discriminate. It is the sharing of property and the right to make life and death decisions about someone who has granted that right to you," said Allison Bura of Columbia, SC. "To me, it is civil liberty, not a religious thing."
She added, "I do not think Cathy should be punished or forced to take his opinion back. I am just using my right to freedom of speech to disagree with him and no longer send my money to support anti-gay campaigns."
Others question the wisdom of a private business getting involved in social issues.
"You're a fast food restaurant. Why is it necessary to have a declared opinion on such a controversial subject? Seems like a stupid marketing tactic to me, regardless of what attention it brings you from the media," Kavon Aamanian wrote on Chick-fil-A's Facebook page.
Since the interview, the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have said the restaurant is not welcome in their cities.
The ACLU has said the cities have no legal ground to stand on should they try to deny Chick-fil-A a business license because of the company's personal beliefs.
In a statement, Chick-fil-A stated they "treat every person with honor, dignity and respect - regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
"Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
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