Dan Cathy (Akili-Casundria Ramsess, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Dan Cathy (Akili-Casundria Ramsess, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

As the same-sex marriage debate rages, one person says he won’t be weighing in on the subject anymore: Dan Cathy, CEO and president of Chick-fil-A.

Almost two years after he made headlines by throwing his support behind traditional marriage and later decried a pair of Supreme Court decisions that favored same-sex unions, Cathy hasn’t changed his mind. But he said Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has no place in the culture wars and regrets making the company a symbol in the marriage debate.

“Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development and it helps by (recognizing) the mistakes that you make,” Cathy said. “And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it.

Cathy talked about the events of the summer of 2012 in a wide-ranging interview that included his thoughts about the company’s future and the path he wants to put it on as the newly named CEO. He got the title in November after his father, Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, stepped aside at age 92.

Still, as Cathy starts the job the company’s link to the gay marriage debate lingers. And it still occupies a niche as the only major fast food chain that isn’t open on Sunday, owing to the Christian, pro-family convictions of the elder Cathy — something Dan Cathy says he won’t change.

Cathy told an online publication in 2012 that he was “guilty as charged” in his religion-based opposition to gay marriage. Same-sex marriage supporters protested at Chick-fil-A locations; thousands who backed Cathy’s stance – or at least his right to state it — packed stores, creating lines that snaked out the door.

The company tried to extricate itself from the controversy by repeatedly asserting it does not discriminate against customers or employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Probably the elements that were stressful for me most is from our internal staff and from operators and how this may be affecting them,” he said. “The bottom line is we have a responsibility here to keep the whole of the organization in mind and it has to take precedence over the personal expression and opinion on social issues.”

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