Chick-fil-A became the unlikely battleground in an American “culture war” last year after CEO Dan Cathy professed an opposition to marriage equality for gay people during an interview with a small religious outlet — but a LGBT group’s review of the chain’s tax documents reveals that the brand is no longer contributing money to groups deemed dangerous to gay rights.
Chick-fil-A shot to national conversation status nearly overnight when both “sides” of the debate seized upon the brand as a lightning rod in the debate over gay marriage.
Supporters of gay rights vowed never to patronize the chain and protested, while opponents flocked to the restaurant for “appreciation days” and other events meant to galvanize those who are against gay marriage to show support for Cathy’s views in an organized way.
In that time, the Chick-fil-A controversy has waned — though a cursory Twitter search indicates much of the chatter about the brand on the microblogging service still centers upon the gay rights debate.
While the American public may never untie Chick-fil-A from a gay rights controversy, the Huffington Post published a recent column written by LGBT activist and married gay man Shane L. Windmeyer. Windmeyer heads up gay rights group Campus Pride — and has in the time since the issue heated up managed to strike up a somewhat unlikely friendship with Cathy.
The piece is moving without doubt — the activist and the conservative CEO seem to have become genuine friends in what began as a good-faith outreach from Cathy to the gay community.
But a second piece of the story concerns the most damning allegation against Chick-fil-A by detractors — that money spent there was a mandate for the mistreatment of gay people, as some went to groups that practice now-discredited conversion therapy as well as international groups with far more unpleasant practices toward LGBT people.
Windmeyer seems intentionally vague in his review of Chick-fil-A as it relates to anti-gay groups. As a LGBT activist, he probably has a good grasp of where there are gray areas, and he simply says in his piece:
“This past week Chick-fil-A shared with me the 2011 IRS Form 990, filed in November for the WinShape Foundation, along with 2012 financials. The IRS has not released the 990 to the public yet, but the financials affirm Chick-fil-A’s values a year prior to the controversy this past July.”
“The nearly $6 million in outside grant funding focuses on youth, education, marriage enrichment and local communities. The funding reflects Chick-fil-A’s promised commitment not to engage in ‘political or social debates,’ and the most divisive, anti-LGBT groups are no longer listed.
While the “most divisive” ones are gone, it would be interesting to hear a clarification on how exactly that shakes out — are minor or moderately divisive groups still there? Any that funnel money to harmful things like conversion therapy? That remains unseen.
It’s not just a gay issue for Chick-fil-A, as liberal estimates assume at most the population in general is only at 10 percent LGBT. But, UCLA assistant professor Jason Snyder tells the Los Angeles Times that “a substantial segment of patrons  are sympathetic” to gay rights causes, even if they themselves are heterosexual. Synder explains:
“Gays are now able to exert some sort of market pressure … That’s the reason Chick-fil-A is probably responding, because in some ways the market is pushing them this way. This is indicative that there’s a tangible threat to the bottom line.”
Whichever way the pendulum swings for both Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A, it’s certainly heartening to read a piece indicating harmony aside from differences, and not the anger we saw so prevalent last summer.