Next month, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), a non-profit group for “economic developers” who “promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities,” is holding their annual conference in Atlanta and its theme is “inclusive economic development.” And guess who the keynote speaker is: It’s Dan Cathy (pictured above), the CEO, President and chairman of Chick-fil-A, an American fast food chain that has donated millions to anti-LGBTQ groups. So much for “inclusive economic development.”
From 2003 to 2015, Chick-fil-A donated millions to anti-LGBTQ groups. It has a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign for offering no LGBTQ-specific benefits to employees or its communities. It has such a reputation that activists in Canada are now protesting the restaurant opening up franchises in Toronto.
In 2012, Dan Cathy himself said that Chick-fil-A opposes same-sex marriage. He told a Baptist magazine, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit … We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
Cathy later laughed on Twitter about how his interview “lit up the gay community” in a tweet he later deleted. He then espoused the same anti-gay views on the radio, calling marriage equality activists “prideful” and “arrogant.”
The progressive publication ThinkProgress asked IEDC why they asked Cathy to speak considering that IEDC’s own code of ethics demands “all economic development activities are conducted with equality of opportunity for all segments of the community.”
IEDC’s president, Jeff Finkle, said “the organization’s leadership had disagreed on the matter,” adding, “Is this my easiest thing to defend in my career? It is not. Am I willing to defend it? I am.”
Finkle mentioned that Chick-fil-A had supported Atlanta’s black community and had promised to end its donations to all anti-LGBTQ groups except for the Salvation Army, a religious international charity which long opposed same-sex marriage, allegedly practiced anti-LGBTQ housing discrimination and supports religious exemptions from laws forbidding anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
In 2015, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave $130,000 to the Salvation Army.