An ongoing controversy came to a head Wednesday as East Tennesseans turned out in droves to support a southern-based business in a nationwide effort.
"I thought it would be pretty busy, but it is amazing, I think it's awesome that we are just here to support Chick-fil-A," said Marcia Touchstone, a customer who waited for more than an hour at the Turkey Creek location Wednesday. "Everyone will see that Christians are taking a stand, taking a stand for what is Biblical truth."
Touchstone joined thousands of others from across the country in what supporters dubbed "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."
The movement was in response to the recent comments from Dan Cathy, the restaurant chain's founder.
Cathy has spoken out against gay marriage, and his company also has donated millions of dollars to conservative organizations that opponents say are anti-gay.
"You gotta kind of expect that when you have an issue like that, that people are gonna take a stand, OK, on one side or the other, and I think you see by the response that they are supported in what they believe," said Jeff Rone, who drove to the Turkey Creek Chick-fil-A from Kingston.
He stood in line with dozens of others, some of whom were fellow church members.
"We believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that's what the Bible says, and anything outside of that, is what we consider sin, OK," Rone said. "Now, as God-fearing, God-loving Christians, we love the sinner, OK, we love those people, OK, we love them all, we just don't agree with what they believe."
Wednesday was not the first time East Tennesseans have put their money where their mouths are.
Earlier this year, when Martha Boggs, the owner of the Bistro at the Bijou, banned State Senator Stacey Campfield from her restaurant over his controversial remarks on homosexuality, Boggs said she saw a bump in business.
"The publicity and support from the gay and lesbian community did a lot to increase my business," Boggs said. "I saw a definite increase in support, and they, in turn, have supported me by coming to my restaurant."
Back in 2010, many East Tennesseans held on to their money by boycotting BP stations, including many of the KenJo Markets, after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
But on Wednesday, not everyone was stepping up to show support for Chick-fil-A.
"I'm not going to let a few people's ignorance in one day cause me to lose hope," said Todd Cramer, president of the East Tennessee Equality Council. "I think a lot of people today really are there for the wrong reasons, and if they understood the entire situation, they would feel differently about it."
Cramer said he has seen plenty of support for the gay and lesbian community in East Tennessee, most recently at June's Knoxville PrideFest, which was attended by the Knoxville mayor for the first time ever.
He also pointed out that, while customers where throwing their support behind Chick-fil-A on one day, several other restaurants have been hosting Eat OUT with Pride nights that span several weeks.
"I'm not recommending or suggesting they boycott Chick-fil-A or any other business," Cramer said. "I am a small business owner, I believe in Knoxville, I want our town to thrive, I want anyone that does business here to thrive. What I am not supporting is the fact that that particular corporation chooses to take its profits to discriminate specifically against my community, and so I choose to spend my dollars at companies that support tolerance, support equality, support inclusion, and support that same love and freedom of speech that Chick-fil-A has gotten kind of misguided on."
Meanwhile, a counter-effort is underway in response to Wednesday's appreciation day.
Opponents of the Chick-fil-A founder's views are planning a National Same Sex Kiss Day to be staged at various Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country at 8 p.m. Friday.