As protesters and supporters rally around Chick-fil-A's recently announced anti-gay marriage stance, it is being reported that the company's top media spokesman has died.
Don Perry, long-time vice president of public relations for the company, died suddenly Friday morning, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The AJC did not report a cause of death, but there is speculation that Perry suffered a heart attack.
"Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years," the company said in a statement released to The AJC. "For many of you in the media, he was the spokesperson for Chick-fil-A. He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Chick-fil-A has been embroiled in a firestorm over anti-gay marriage remarks made by company president Dan Cathy earlier this month. After receiving pressure from gay rights' supporters, Cathy said his privately owned company is against same-sex unions.
Cathy declared his company was “guilty as charged” on gay marriage, and added, “We’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say we know better than You as to what constitutes marriage.”
Following Cathy’s remarks, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a released statement that Chick-fil-A "has finally come clean."
Griffin, whose organization supports same-sex unions, had pressured Cathy to take a stand.
“Chick-fil-A is headed by a man who is proud of his company’s anti-LGBT giving and has made some extremist statements concerning marriage equality. Consumers now have to decide if that’s the kind of company they want to give their money to,” a Human Rights Campaign statement read earlier this month.
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Prior to Perry's death, Chick-fil-A supporters had been planning an "Appreciation Day" for Aug. 1: Those who support Cathy’s stance are being asked to eat at the restaurant that day. The event is still scheduled.
Opponents are planning a day of their own on Aug. 3: "National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A.”
Gay rights groups have also called for a boycott of the restaurant. In response, the Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids' meals, and politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it's not welcome in their cities, the San Jose Mercury News reported.