"I'm not really a fighter," Marci Alt says from her office in Atlanta, Georgia. "I would rather have a conversation."
Alt is 47 and married to her partner of 12 years, Marlysa. They're mothers to a 2-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl. And they've decided to invite Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy to dinner.
"I probably have the exact same kind of family values that he has," Alt said. "He just doesn't think I deserve to have the same rights that he has."
Chick-fil-A has long been criticized for opposing same-sex marriage, but the outrage escalated in July, when Equality Matters reported that the company donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2010. Cathy responded to the criticism later that month in Baptist Press: "Well, guilty as charged ... We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit."
On Wednesday, thousands celebrated "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," a Mike Huckabee-invented holiday that encouraged people to eat at the chain to support the owners' right to voice their anti-gay marriage stance. Many supporters were met with protesters waving picket signs and chanting about how equality is more important than chicken sandwiches.
Instead of joining the picketers, Alt, who runs the Gay Community Yellow Pages, launched a Change.org petition turned dinner invite to get Cathy's attention. She wants the COO to see their families' similarities — to meet her loving wife, her bumbling toddler, and her little girl who competes in gymnastics and cheerleading.
The petition jumped from 300 signatures to 1,500 signatures overnight.
"I applaud him for exercising his first-amendment rights. I think that's what makes America wonderful," she said. Will she ever eat at Chick-fil-A again? Marlysa adores the restaurant. And Alt believes "it's the most healthy fast-food chain in America."
"At the same time, I'm not going to support a business that doesn't support who I am," she said.
Alt will be attending today's "National Same-Sex Kiss Day" at her local Chick-fil-A — an event that Mike Huckabee said he doesn't oppose. ("That's America,” he told Fox News. “If they believe that will help their cause, to put people of the same sex kissing each other in a public place in front of families, if they believe that will encourage people to be more sympathetic, then, you know, more power to them.”)
Alt doesn't know if Cathy will respond to — or even read — her invitation. If he does, she said she might even cook chicken.
In a statement, GLAAD president Herndon Graddick said Cathy “should meet and get to know the people that he’s speaking out against — the people who are harmed by his company’s multi-million dollar donations to anti-gay hate groups working to hurt everyday LGBT Americans and break apart loving families.”