Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay CEO to speak at equality-themed Atlanta event

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy will be a keynote speaker at an Atlanta conference focused on equality despite his vocal opposition to marriage equality and his company’s record of pumping millions of dollars into anti-LGBTQ groups.

Cathy (photo) will be one of six keynote speakers to address the 2018 International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) Annual Conference, which is scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. It is expected to draw around 1,500 people, according to ThinkProgress.

“This year, the conference will focus on equality,” an IEDC press release said. The event’s theme is “Inclusive Economic Development: Fulfilling Dreams.”

IEDC President Jeff Finkle defended the decision to invite Cathy and said Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ record “doesn’t represent IEDC.”

“Is this my easiest thing to defend in my career? It is not,” he told ThinkProgress. “Am I willing to defend it? I am.”

Chick-fil-A — one of the largest fast-food chains by sales in the U.S. — came under fire in 2011 when IRS filings showed their charitable foundation pumped millions into anti-LGBTQ groups. Cathy’s vocal opposition to gay marriage followed, and he called the Supreme Court’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 “a sad day for our nation.” The company later scaled back most of its funding to such groups, but a report last year showed that in 2015 the group donated more than $1.4 million to three anti-LGBTQ groups.

In June, the Peacock Panache combed through the chain’s latest available IRS Form 990 covering 2016 and found that the company continued to fund the same three anti-LGBTQ groups they did in 2015. Think Progress piggybacked on the Peacock Panache’s report, and that got the attention of Chick-fil-A, which issued a rebuttal that said it dropped support of one of the groups in 2017.

Finkle told ThinkProgress that Chick-fil-A is improving on LGBTQ issues and that the company told him they would soon only be donating to one anti-LGBTQ group.

“They told us that,” he said. “They said, after this year, there’s only gonna be one group left that some people in the LGBTQ community will object to — that’s the Salvation Army. They told us from now forward they are ceasing all the other contributions that have been deemed offensive.”

Finkle also claimed that Cathy’s selection initially came from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, which did not respond to ThinkProgress’s request for comment.

There will be at least one openly gay speaker at the IEDC conference — Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta CEO Raphael Bostic.

The Georgia Log Cabin Republicans called for an end to the “liberal bullying” of Chick-fil-A in June and said it was proud to be the first LGBTQ organization to call on supporters to dine there.