Southern fast-food giant Chick-fil-A's proposed Long Island restaurant has won support from Port Jefferson Station residents, despite the company president's controversial comments on same-sex marriage.
At least two residents questioned representatives of the Atlanta-based chain about the company's views on gay rights during a discussion of the restaurant proposal last week at a meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association.
More than 30 people attending the meeting supported the restaurant plan, and only three opposed it, said civic association president Ed Garboski.
"This is the first one in the area. It's a big corporation -- there must be a reason they chose to come to this area," said Garboski, adding that he had expected a closer vote. "It's a shot in the arm for us, and it cleans up an ugly piece of property."
The Brookhaven Town Board has scheduled a Dec. 3 public hearing on developer KOR's request for a zoning change allowing the Chick-fil-A and a second as-yet unidentified restaurant at a former car dealership on Route 347.
The setting of the hearing led to bickering between outgoing Democratic Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who represents District 1, where the eatery would rise, and newly re-elected Republican Councilman Tim Mazzei. Fiore-Rosenfeld accused Mazzei of encroaching on his turf by sponsoring the resolution for the hearing despite representing District 5. Mazzei said he sponsored the item because Fiore-Rosenfeld tried to block the project.
Gay rights advocates had criticized comments made earlier this year by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, who opposed a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding gay marriage. The company has said Cathy had expressed "a personal comment."
Last year, Cathy told an online religious magazine he opposed gay marriage, sparking protests and a call for a boycott.
Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Brenda D. Morrow said in a statement that the Long Island restaurant would be independently owned and operated, and the parent company would not interfere with hiring.
"Chick-fil-A, Inc. is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in employment decisions based on any factors protected by federal, state or local laws," Morrow said. "We employ more than 75,000 individuals who represent diverse viewpoints and lifestyles. Our hiring practices do not discriminate based on race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."
Several residents at the civic meeting asked whether the restaurant would hire gay and lesbian and non-Christian employees, said people who attended the gathering.
Valerie Cartright, who will represent Port Jefferson Station when she joins the town board in January, said a Chick-fil-A representative told residents the restaurant would be "open to everyone."
"It was going to be an open and equal hiring process," said Cartright, who attended the meeting. "He distanced himself from the comments that were made [by Cathy]."