By Laura Petrecca, USA TODAY
The heated debate over Chick-fil-A and same-sex marriage is about to get a touch softer with a kiss-in protest scheduled for Friday.
Gay rights organizations and other advocacy groups are promoting a "National Same-Sex Kiss Day," where people are encouraged to head to a Chick-fil-A and lock lips with a member of the same sex.
The kissing crusade against the chicken chain comes after Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press his company supports "the biblical definition of the family unit."
Others are showing their support for Cathy and his company. Wednesday was "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," created by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who says he was "incensed" by the backlash against Chick-fil-A.
There were long lines at Chick-fil-A's across the country as patrons queued up to support the chain as well as the right to free speech. Chick-fil-A didn't release sales figures, but said it was "an unprecedented day."
Also Wednesday, a Wendy's franchise owner took the unusual stance of posting signs of support for his rival.
Jim Furman, CEO of Tar Heel Capital, confirmed to WIS TV in Columbia, S.C., that his company put up messages such as "We stand with Chick Fil A" outside Wendy's restaurants Wednesday. He said he didn't know how many signs were posted.
Furman didn't reply to requests for comment from USA TODAY.
Tar Heel Capital owns 75 Wendy's in North Carolina and South Carolina.
"An independent Wendy's franchisee that was located in the Carolinas posted (signs) supporting Chick-fil-A," Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini confirmed.
Bertini said the messages were up for less than a day, adding that Wendy's "position as a company is that we're proud of our long history of serving all customers regardless of their beliefs or orientation."
Many other groups and politicians have brought Cathy's comments into the ongoing debate over gay marriage. The brand once associated mainly with chicken sandwiches and a quirky "Eat Mor Chikin" slogan is now in the political cauldron.
Chick-fil-A issued a statement three days after Cathy's comments: "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena." Yet the company remains in the headlines.
"This IS a huge challenge for companies (and) brands today. We are one country divided by politics," said marketing consultant Laura Ries. "Coming out strongly on one side or the other is hitting the third rail of branding."
A company should be true to its values but also has to consider the consequences before engaging in controversy, Ries said.
As a general rule, it's religion and politics that can get consumers into a lather. "It's like talking at a dinner party," she said.
The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay unions, urged a boycott whenGeneral Mills and Starbucks came out in favor of same-sex marriage.
Even with potential repercussions, some companies and executives openly support gay rights. Washington United for Marriage, a coalition opposing a ballot measure that would invalidate a gay marriage law in that state, has announced that Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, will donate $2.5 million to its cause.
Other companies say they believe political issues aren't their domain.
Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan is linked with conservative Catholic causes, but his company avoided those issues. He sold the company in 1998.
Domino's stance is to stay out of public debate, and just focus on its products, spokesman Tim McIntyre said.
"We're not a religious company. We're not a political company. We're a pizza company," he said.