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.

  • trivialknot

    I’m kind of upset that Chick-Fil-A is even back in the news again. Trying to boycott Chick-Fil-A was a serious political misplay. The principle of the thing doesn’t matter; the public felt it was absurd that supporting LGBT rights meant not buying a chicken sandwich. That’s why Campus Pride should have suspended their campaign, not because Dan Cathy knows how to be polite in his personal interactions.

  • eric

    From the quoted Campus Pride opinion:

    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

    Money is fungible to a certain extent, but not 100% fungible. Each charity is going to have different goals and allocate their donations different ways. Even for a straight-up pass through, the initial recipient charity is going to take a cut for operational expenses (in many cases, nonprofits have explicit rules about how they treat pass-throughs, including expenses). So I somewhat disagree with the above poster: getting Cathy to change Chik-fil-A’s donations to less extreme groups is a step in the right direction. It may be a small step, but its a step.

  • NewEnglandBob

    I have no respect for either man. After reading this article, I see Windmeyer as just another accommodationist and fatheist. He has deluded himself in supernatural beliefs. He just wants to be liked. This is a terrible way to behave, giving up ones’s principles.

  • The Captain

    Excellent write up. And I would say a bit brave of Kari since Rome GA is kinda a hot bed for Chick-fil-a and Windshape.

    “this second-class friendship” That pretty much sums it up doesn’t it?

    I have to admit Windmeyer comes off as best hopelessly naive and subservient, at worst complacent. I have no problem with him becoming friends with Cathy, it’s his life and he can be friends with anyone he wants. Besides I know many people around here can’t understand the concept, but it is possible to be friends with someone you disagree with on deep issues. But Windmeyer seems to be taking the gay marriage debate in the totally wrong direction. Stop trying to prove how “good” or “nice” you really are to these people. It does’t matter if christians “like” you, all that matters is they need to understand that they have no right to use the rule of law to force you to practice their religion! I hate having to bold that but damn it so many people miss this.

    Windmeyer needs to stop trying to be friends with more people, and ask point blank and in public the friends he has now like Cathy, why Cathy thinks he can use the law to force people to practice his form of christanity only! He needs to ask Cathy why he doesn’t think Windmeyer has the right to practice his religion too. He needs to ask Cathy why he works towards the government forcing Cathy’s religious definition of marriage on anyone else. It’s simple Windmeyer… do it.

  • trivialknot

    I assume you’re referring to me (please note that disqus resorts comments, so “the above poster” is not specific enough). To clarify, I believe it is possible that the anti-Chick-Fil-A campaign did some good. But I do not think it was an efficient allocation of resources. Thank you for your comment.

  • Haha USA

    You know, these idiots that sprout that “hate the sin, love the sinner” nonsense finally get a gay friend an realise that the “sin” isn’t really a sin after all… and end up just loving the gays?

    that’d be awesome :P

  • Rain

    Since 2003, the Winshape Foundation has donated over $5 million to anti-gay organizations.

    Let’s see here… Oodles and oodles of organizations sprouting out everywhere and getting free money from people and then paying themselves. Yeah, back in my neighborhood we used to call them “rackets”. (No idea what the hip kids call them these days.)

  • Sven2547

    Larry Flynt and Jerry Falwell had a sort of adversarial friendship in Jerry’s later years. It’s weird, but sometimes these things happen.

  • Tak

    How can Windmeyer respect himself? What does his husband think of all this?

    I can’t help but think how if we applied another set of religious rules that aren’t the ‘norm’ here in the USA to a minority that is more protected than homosexuals it wouldn’t go over so well. It’d be like me as a woman becoming buddies with a male Muslim who wants to impose sharia law on everybody.

  • rlrose328

    This lets Cathy say, “One of my best friends is gay, so it’s not that I hate gays.” I think in the black movement, this type of person was called an Uncle Tom. Is there a similar phrase for this guy? Turncoat?
    This is a friendship of convenience for Cathy. Windmeyer comes across as a naive bumpkin who is happy to be friends with the rich kid in town while the rich kid still has massive disdain for the poor kid but is his friend anyway.

  • Andy

    Why so much disrespect for Windmeyer? He is trying to put a “human face” on Cathy’s supposed enemy, LGBT people. Getting to know someone, seeing them interact with their loved ones, realizing there really isn’t much of a difference between you and them… that’s one of the best ways to realize your beliefs might be wrong. I think it’s good to promote friendship because in the long term that increased connection and interaction will help encourage acceptance. If this leads to greater friendship in general between Christians and people in the LGBT community then I think that will go a long way towards healing the rifts in our society.

    By all means the LBGT community should continue to fight for equality via other methods, but I don’t see much harm in what Windmeyer is doing, and I do see potential good.

  • chicago dyke

    as others have said above, because it gives cover to the haters and their rackets of “making a living” by promoting hate. gay teens are killing themselves, couples in most states can not marry or get hospital visitation rights for their dying partners, 000s of other benefits are denied. thanks to rich haters like Cathy, funding political hate.

    and just to show you i can be honest: i have republican friends. well, one now. most of the rest fucked me over at some point and we don’t talk anymore. but it’s important for liberals, gays and minorities of all kinds to remember the story of the scorpion who asked the fox to let him cross the river on the fox’s back.

    this reminds me of the drubbing Avarosis took for making friends with Katherine Harris at a DC party and then blogging about it. he was all like “she’s nice, in person!” and people just reamed him a new asshole for it.

    wake up, gay people who like conservatives. they are not your friends and are in fact hurting people just like you, even if they give you free football tickets and chicken.

  • LesterBallard

    Does he know at least some of Chik fil a’s money went to the FRC, and that the FRC used 25,000 Gs to lobby the US government to not condemn Uganda and their fucked up laws? Fuck Dan Cathy.

  • smrnda

    I’m sure a person who detests my demographic (whichever one) could be polite in person if they actually met me, but I’m not naive or stupid enough to take it as anything but a PR stunt. It’s easy to be polite to second-class citizens in person, since, as individuals, they have little power, and the person on the side of the oppressor can go on doing their business. They don’t need to be fuming with hatred every second to oppress someone since power is on their side. Cathy can be cordial and then, once his new gay friend is off the scene, can go back to finding ways to keep them second-class citizens

    If you’re GLBT, a person who wants to deny you equality cannot be your friend. They can talk nice in person, but at the end of the day, they’ll use their power to keep you down. Why can’t Windmeyer just say “I got to talk to Cathy. He’s not my friend, but we talked?”

  • Edmond

    And that’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? The very idea that consenting adults finding happiness and companionship with someone who suits them best should actually be considered an undesirable, CRIMINAL act, to be scorned and chastised, is what fuels religious hatred against the gay community. Things will NEVER change until Christians can drop this contentious, slanderous label of “sin” against innocent, law-abiding citizens who are only following their hearts.

  • Grib, the Goblin Thief King

    I think we still call them rackets, but I’m not entirely sure.

  • Pseudonym

    …and yet here we are suggesting that two men can’t even be friends.

    Larry Flynt ended up good friends with Jerry Falwell. Christopher Hitchens was friends with Larry Taunton. These unlikely friendships happen, and good sometimes comes of them.

  • Houndentenor

    it’s not unusual for people to make the mistake of thinking that the person who is nice to their face is not stabbing others like them in the back at the same time. There was a similar bit of revolting coverage of Melissa Ethridge’s meeting with Rick Warren a few years back. He kissed her ass and told her he was a big fan and she was happy to overlook his involvement with the Uganda “kill the gays” bill. We are all easily overwhelmed with flatter and being told what we want to hear.

  • Houndentenor

    I won’t give them my money because a part of that money goes to disproven and harmful “reparative therapy” groups. I’m not sure if that counts as boycotting them but I’m not giving them my business.

  • Thackerie

    Just because someone is openly gay doesn’t mean he can’t be openly stupid, as well.

  • Thackerie

    Around here, we call them evangelical christian churches.

  • rwlawoffice

    You guys are amazing. You preach tolerance yet you really just want tolerance for your position and no others. You even turn on one of your own supporters when that person shows anything less than outright hate for those that disagree with you.

  • Drew

    We tend to say “Uncle Mary”.

  • Drew

    Being against gay marriage isn’t tolerant. We don’t tolerate intolerance, because that would be foolish. He doesn’t have to hate Cathy, but he should be smart enough to realize that anyone who doesn’t value his happiness over their delusion isn’t really his friend.

  • Benny Cemoli

    You cannot hope to have tolerance extended to you if you don’t extend tolerance to others. Cathy, as a member of the True Christian Faith ™ will not, and cannot, tolerate gay people. As long as he manifests that intolerance towards a group of people then you cannot expect anyone to have tolerance for him or his position.

    As for Windmeyer, whose to say what is going through his mind that enables him to accept Cathy as a friend. I suspect he is just another one of those naive people that doesn’t realize he is just being used as cover for Cathy’s bigotry.

    Wonder if Cathy let’s Windmeyer use his bathroom. LOL

  • Dicky

    One of the blogs I frequent uses the term “quisling” as a descriptor for that type of person.

  • trivialknot

    No, that is not a boycott, because you are an individual, not a national activist organization with a budget. What you’re doing is fine. Keep on doing it.

  • Baby_Raptor

    How can you honestly be friends with someone who doesn’t respect you and wants to treat you like you’re a subhuman criminal? I honestly don’t get it. To me, the basics of friendship are respect and trust, and how could a gay person get those from someone like Cathy? Really get them, I mean, not just get words.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The old “tolerate my intolerance” cry. It’s really all you have, isn’t it?

    We respect your right to hold the view. We DON’T respect your right to use your views to illegally deprive us of rights. And we don’t have to respect the view. We just cannot block your right to hold/voice it. You wouldn’t let it be done to you, so why should we have to put up with it?

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yeah, Fuck the fact that spending money there means that your money actively hurts gays and lesbians. The public might look askance at an idea! GASP!

  • rwlawoffice

    The ways that the views of those that oppose same sex marriage are being expressed are fully within their rights. No one is illegally depriving you of anything. Nothing illegal about voting, free speech, or proposing legislation. It is how the system works.

    But of course that really isn’t the point. The point is that your intolerance is not just shown for those that oppose your agenda, it is also for those on your side that show friendship with those that oppose you. The posts here prove that. Anything short of complete acceptance is treated as worthy of hate.

  • boston93

    So freedom of speech…unless you have alot of money. Hm.