The line at Chick-fil-A in Strongsville stretched around the restaurant and out the door Wednesday for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, an event organized to support the company and its president in the wake of controversy over his views on gay marriage.
"We just want to make a statement. We have family values, Christian values, and we're supportive of anyone who has those values," said Bonnie Sander of Brunswick.
"We need to stand up for freedom of speech," her husband, Don, added.
They were part of a nationwide show of support for Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, who sparked controversy -- and boycotts of the restaurant -- recently when he acknowledged he does not support gay marriage.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rallied support for the business on his Facebook page by proclaiming Aug. 1 Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
The parking lot and drive-through in Strongsville were still jammed at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and customers said the line of cars at lunchtime was backed up onto I-71.
Most said they didn't mind waiting in line.
"We came to support the owner's position, and his right to say it," said Carmella Juarbe of Mayfield Heights. "We live in a country with freedom of religion."
"He shouldn't be chastized for saying what he believes," agreed her daughter, Sophia, of North Royalton.
Franchise owner Brian Wellman declined to comment, instead referring to a company statement that says the firm has always applied "biblically based principles" like closing on Sundays, but treats every customer with "honor, dignity and respect."
The Sanders said they had never been to the fast food restaurant before, but will make a point of going there now.
"We will eat at Chick-fil-A now every time we see one," Bonnie said.
Of course, not everyone at the restaurant was there to show support. One man who said he wasn't aware of the Appreciation Day took a look at the crowd and left.
"I really don't care who marries who," he said. "But I'm not waiting in that line."
Word is that gay rights groups will be at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country on Friday to protest the company's stance.