Can a Gay Man Really Be a ‘Close Friend’ of the President of Chick-fil-A?

This is a guest post by Kari Hummel. Kari is a student at Shorter University, a Baptist college in Rome, Georgia, working toward a degree in Communication with a concentration in Journalism.


Shane L. Windmeyer, a 40-year-old gay man and an advocate for marriage equality, recently authored an article for the Huffington Post, Gay Voices: “Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A.” It describes his budding relationship with Chick-fil-A’s Chief Operations Officer (and the man who made some infamous anti-gay comments over the summer) Dan Cathy.

Shane Windmeyer (left) with Dan Cathy

Windmeyer is the Founder and Executive Director of Campus Pride, a national organization for LGBT (and ally) college students. Dan Cathy is the son of S. Truett Cathy, who founded Chick-fil-A in 1946. Cathy speaks openly against marriage equality, citing his biblical definition of marriage.

Their unique relationship began in August of 2012 after Windmeyer received a phone call from Cathy. The two spoke often over the next few weeks.

At first, Windmeyer said he was apprehensive:

How could I dare think to have a relationship with a man and a company that have advocated against who I am; who would take apart my family in the name of “traditional marriage”; whose voice and views represented exactly the opposite of those of the students for whom I advocate every day? Dan is the problem, and Chick-fil-A is the enemy, right?

As the months passed, Windmeyer became more comfortable with Cathy. Eventually, their phone calls led to meetings. Cathy listened to Windmeyer’s growing concerns over the funding given by Chick-fil-A to anti-LGBT groups. Windmeyer also described the harsh treatment endured by LGBT students resulting from the Chick-fil-A controversy.

After many months of calls, Cathy shared with Windmeyer the 2011 IRS Form 990 from the Winshape Foundation. The Winshape Foundation is a Christian-based organization that holds marriage retreats, camps, etc. and offers scholarships to Christians to attend Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

Since 2003, the Winshape Foundation has donated over $5 million to anti-gay organizations. Windmeyer claims that the tax forms showed that the most “divisive” anti-LGBT groups were no longer listed as receiving funding from the foundation.

Cathy and Windmeyer still hold strong to their opposing views but, over the months they chatted, a strong friendship developed. Windmeyer canceled Campus Pride protests scheduled for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and instead attended the game with Cathy’s family (although his husband of 18 years was curiously not in attendance…).

Throughout the post, Windmeyer overly glorifies Cathy. He wants us to like Cathy for reasons I am unsure of… he sounds more like his PR consultant than an LGBT advocate. I am still asking myself, why does he like this guy so much? He seems desperate to seek “common ground” with Cathy, perhaps due to his own Christian views.

Since the post surfaced, comments have blown up on sites discussing the article. To make matters worse, Christians are now attributing Christ-like qualities to Cathy.

This comment was taken from the Christian Post:

Mr. Cathy should be commended for pretty much following the example that Jesus would set. Jesus would befriend homosexual people (cf. Matthew 9:10; Luke 7:34) and treat them with kindness and respect, without approving of their homosexual behavior; Jesus came preaching repentance from sin, not acceptance of sin (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32).

As far as I can tell, the backlash has been fairly negative on the LGBT side, and feelings are mixed on the Christian side of things, too. Windmeyer’s organization, Campus Pride, had few positive reviews of the piece. The comments mostly went like this:

Unbelievably naive. You have been had for the price of a telephone call and bowl game tickets. Taking a cue from the Mormon and Catholic Churches, Cathy is merely practicing the tried and true method of money laundering. He may no longer give directly to the hate groups, but he does give to the National Christian Foundation, which in turn donates to the hate groups, thereby wiping off Cathy’s fingerprints. How naive and how unfortunate that you give cover to the bigots.

Although Campus Pride has suspended their “Five Simple Facts about Chick-fil-A” national college campaign, Windmeyer still refuses to eat at the restaurants. This caught me by surprise, as the article makes the two look super chummy. He shares more in the Headline News interview seen here (the transcript below begins at the 1:25 mark):

Windmeyer: It started around trying to find some common ground, and then building what I think is an authentic relationship from there.

Reporter: Did you have the flat out conversation? Dan, why are you against same sex marriage? Did he talk to your husband about it? I mean, how did that go?

Windmeyer: You know, um, Dan has been very open, he’s been very respectful, he’s been very kind. I’ve learned a lot about Dan and his faith, and what he considers to be Christian. And Dan actually calls himself a Christ-like follower, and he has characterized our relationship as a “blessing of growth” and I think that’s interesting, and I have great respect for my faith as well as Dan’s faith. And I think that’s what we need to have more of in this country, and really get away from the divisive rhetoric around gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people and focus on things that matter. And this relationship and our friendship, I think, matters moving forward.

It seems like all Christians want to refer to themselves as “Christ-like followers” (hence the term Christian). I get the impression that Windmeyer has some compulsion to be seen as a good Christian by people like Cathy, and wants to prove on some level that the LGBT community can coexist with Christianity. I think he would likely be a lot happier if he just dropped Christianity and all of its hate indefinitely. Religion does not allow for outside-the-box thinking. Once Christians accept marriage equality what will they botch next on their pursuit of piety?

We also find out in the video that Chick-fil-A is still funding anti-LGBT groups. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming…) You can find it around the 3:30 mark:

Reporter: Chick-fil-A still donates to organizations that are against same sex marriage. What’s your take, what’s your conversation with Dan Cathy about that?

Windmeyer: You know this is a starting point. It’s not the end of anything, and people have a right in the LGBT community to be concerned about Chick-fil-A. I mean, we as an organization, myself as a leader have never said to go out and buy Chick-fil-A. We are telling college campuses to make their own decision, and to make informed decisions based on the needs of their students. What’s important to us is to have safe campus communities and the Chick-fil-A brand as I’ve been able to tell Dan has taken on this rhetoric of hate, and that really concerns Dan, and I think moving forward this is a positive dialogue and um I have hope, but this is not done. As a friend I can continue to challenge though.

Reporter: Shane, do you go to Chick-fil-A yourself?

Windmeyer: I do not go to Chick-fil-A, but if Dan buys me a sandwich and wants to sit down and talk. I’ll eat the sandwich, but at the end of the day. I’ve decided I am not patronizing Chick-fil-A because my husband and I have been together 18 years, and they don’t support marriage, but I think it’s important to recognize that not all friends have to agree, but at the end of the day. You know protests matter, but relationships matter and friendships matter. That’s what I think I am trying to loudly voice.

Ultimately, Windmeyer can spout all the positive things he wants, but Cathy remains firm in his position against marriage equality. I am astonished that Windmeyer would settle for this second-class friendship. Cathy can’t just put a smile on his face while still voting against marriage equality and still claim to be a friend of the LGBT community.

This is just another typical example of “Christian love” at its finest.

Cathy has the power to use his voice to change the way many Christians see the LGBT community but, instead, he chooses to discriminate. He still clings to primitive rules from an over-glorified book of myths. Those in the gay community deserve equality in every sense, especially in friendship.

Windmeyer is a role model for those that will be the future leaders of the LGBT movement. What kind of leadership does this portray to those college students who look up to him? At worst, he’s being hypocritical; at best, he’s extremely naïve.

The simple fact that Cathy promotes discrimination against the LGBT community is enough in my book. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if many LGBT supporters lose respect for Windmeyer, too, over this article.

I certainly have.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.