In a HuffPost blog post published yesterday, Jan. 28, Campus Pride executive director Shane Windmeyer issued a cease and desist on behalf of Chick-fil-A.
Following several meetings with Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy and an invitation to be his personal guest at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Shane issued the all-clear. This is not the first time he has attempted to allay the LGBT community's fears about Chick-fil-A. In September 2012 he formally suspended his organization's boycott of the company, which seemed to some as though the entire LGBT community was doing the same.
After a HuffPost Live segment in which ThinkProgress LGBT's Zack Ford and I discussed these topics with Shane, I thought it necessary to follow up. One of the important revelations in Shane's piece is that he's been allowed access to top-secret internal Chick-fil-A documents and has seen tax forms proving that Chick-fil-A is no longer giving to the "most divisive" anti-gay groups, such as Focus on the Family and Exodus International, both of which have been linked to Uganda's infamous "kill the gays" bill. That's hard to comment on, because Cathy only showed the forms to Shane.
Nevertheless, there are enormous questions that arise, and it's important that we ask them before chomping into a greasy, fatty, homophobic sandwich. Some were voiced during the HuffPost Live segment but were never answered, and others are now being asked around the Web.
Why would Dan Cathy attempt to clear his name and his organization's reputation by sharing these internal documents with the executive director of Campus Pride rather than with a reporter? There could be several reasons for this. If the story were leaked to the mainstream media and turned out to be true, some of Chick-fil-A's anti-gay customers could get really angry. Alternatively, perhaps Cathy specifically sought Shane's stamp of approval so that Shane would become a Chick-fil-A advocate on all those college campuses that are seeking to open new Chick-fil-A franchises. Either way, Chick-fil-A is still contributing to anti-gay groups.
And why would Dan Cathy choose to pursue only Shane Windmeyer and Campus Pride instead of larger, further-reaching LGBT organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force or the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)? Is it that Cathy thought Shane seemed like a nice guy, or is it that winning over Shane could open up lucrative opportunities on college campuses?
Finally, Shane's piece, though ultimately about his budding friendship with Cathy, has led to claims in the media that Chick-fil-A has ceased funding anti-gay groups. Although Shane blames the media for overlooking the fine print (notice that he wrote that Chick-fil-A had stopped contributing to just the "most divisive" anti-gay groups), he has nevertheless managed to provide cover for a virulently anti-gay company and its virulently anti-gay president.
I hate conspiracy theories, truly I do, but there seems to be something going on that isn't kosher -- and I'm not talking about the soggy pickle in a Chick-fil-A sandwich. I like Shane, and I think Campus Pride does incredibly important work, but I would hate to see Shane's and his organization's reputations at all sullied by lifting up those who steadfastly stand in opposition to equality. Dan Cathy very well may have found a friend in the LGBT community (many homophobes have stated, "Some of my best friends are gay!"), but the harm that Chick-fil-A's contributions to anti-gay groups have done cannot be overlooked simply because the company's president invited a gay guy to a football game.
Watch Shane Windmeyer, Zack Ford and I discuss this story on HuffPost Live: