Thousands of supporters of traditional marriage flocked to Chick-fil-A locations across Middle Tennessee for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
Former Republican presidential candidate and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee dubbed Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day", saying he wants Americans to support the company after its president said in a recent interview that he supports the "biblical definition" of family.
Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press last month that the Atlanta-based company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family."
Gay rights advocates were outraged, and some prominent Democratic mayors have said they don't want the Atlanta-based chain to expand to their cities.
Republican Congressman Mike Hubbard, of Alabama, says it's about religious freedom and freedom of speech.
"I happen to share the same belief as Mr. Cathy, and he has every right to do that. Again, if you don't agree with the policy, you don't eat at the restaurant," Hubbard said.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are organizing counter-protests and asking people to donate the approximate cost of a Chick-fil-A meal to gay and lesbian rights groups.
Friday, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is promoting a "National Same-Sex Kiss Day."
Opponents are encouraging people of the same sex to show up at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country and kiss each other.
Nashville's News 2 spoke with the Tennessee Equality Project, who said they like the attention the appreciation day is bringing to the debate over same sex marriage.
According to TEP's President Chris Sanders, the event has raised more than $600 in donations from people who decided to give the organization the money they would have spent on a meal at Chick-fil-A.
Sanders also said a number of people have contacted state lawmakers who have gone on the record in support of the fast food chain.
"This is not about free speech," he said. "It is about exposing the trail of money involved in support organizations that discriminate."
Chick-fil-A posted a statement on the company's Web site to address the growing controversy.
"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," the statement read in part. "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
In Tennessee, lines were long at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the state.
In Columbia, Killion's Coffee and Creamery closed its door during the busy lunch hour so he and his customers could eat at Chick-fil-A and show their support.
"Anyone is welcomed in my business," said Killion. "But today it is a first amendment right, I have the right to make a stand, I have the right to say what I believe in and right now, Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, what he stood for I believe in."
At the Chick-fil-A on Mallory Lane in Franklin Alex Perez dressed in a chicken suit and held a sign that said "Let Adam and Steve get married in peace."
"So far I have seen a mixed reaction some people have been really nice and I have had one-on-one conversations with them," he said. "One of them almost got into a fight with me. I guess he thought he could fight with a chicken."
Perez said he decided to protest the fast food company to send a message about the effects anti-gay messages have on the community.
"The company is sending out a very anti-gay message and we are really upset about it the same way the CEO is expressing his opinion we are expressing our opinion."
By Wednesday evening some Chick-fil-A restaurants were running out of items.
The owner operator of the Mallory Lane location of Chick-fil-A had to buy ice to keep up with demand from customers.
"It has been great," Bill Phander said. "It is a record day for us and I am sure a record day for other stores in the Nashville market and around the country."
The Smyrna location ran out of chicken. Employees only had waffle fries and soft drinks to sell with more than two hours left before closing.
Chick-fil-A in Gallatin ran out of chicken and ice cream.