Gay employees have spoken of their feelings about Chick-fil-A’s stance on marriage equality, with one calling yesterday’s ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’ a ‘very, very depressing’ experience.

The chicken chain has given millions of dollars to groups including the Family Research Council, Exodus International and Focus on the Family.

Its chief operating officer said it was “guilty as charged” on the anti-gay marriage stance and that marriage equality invites “God’s judgment on our nation”. The chain has since said it intends to “back out” of the political arena.

Boston’s mayor echoed the statement explicitly asking it to “back out” of plans to open in his city, while New York City council speaker Christine Quinn has said she does not want the chain operating in New York and a Chicago alderman had said he will block permits for the restaurant.

Support from the other side of the political spectrum, including from Sarah Palin, led to Mick Huckabee calling for a national ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’, which took place yesterday.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, one employee described it as “hater appreciation day”, calling it a “very, very depressing” experience.

Another gay employee who has worked at the chain for seven years said he was confronted with homophobic attitudes from supportive customers but also abused by other members of the public who he believed supported the company’s position.

He said patrons would come into his outlet to support Chick-fil-A, and then “say something truly homophobic, e.g. ‘I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace’.”

Conversely, he continued: “I was yelled at for being a god-loving, conservative, homophobic Christian while walking some food out to a guest in a mall dining room.

“It seems like very few people have stopped to think about who actually works for Chick-fil-A and what those people’s opinions are. They are putting us in a pot and coming to support us or hate us based on something they heard and assume we agree with.”

The employee who found the Appreciation Day depressing said the company “doesn’t promote hatred, we don’t cuss and we don’t hate”, after a separate company’s delivery driver told him if he saw one more “faggot protesting” he would “be sick”. But after recent events, he said, he hoped the chain would go out of business.

This week, a Wendy’s said a North Carolina franchise owner who put up signs saying “We stand with Chick-fil-A” across his stores had decided to take them down. Jim Furmen was reported to own 86 Wendy’s stores although it was not clear how many displayed the message.

He said the signs were removed as Wendy’s “felt it was time to go back to their marketing message”.

According to Towleroad, Wendy’s told customers: “This is one independent franchisee’s personal opinion. We are proud to serve customers of varied races, backgrounds, cultures and sexual orientation, with different beliefs and values. Bearing that in mind, this franchisee has decided to remove the messages from his restaurant signs.”