Urban League under fire for giving Chick-Fil-A CEO equality award

by: Lori Geary Updated:


ATLANTA - The Urban League of Greater Atlanta is coming under fire for giving an equality award to Chick-Fil-A president and CEO Dan Cathy, who has spoken out against gay marriage.

The Urban League awarded their Community Empowerment Award to Cathy during their Equal Opportunity Day dinner and gala.

The organization has released a two-page statement on its website which outlines why the group is giving Cathy the community award.

Supporters of the gay and lesbian community said the statement proves this is a PR nightmare for the organization.

"The award should have been about equality for everyone, that's what the Urban League, I thought, was about," said Internet radio talk show host Wesley Cole.

As a supporter of gay rights, Cole told Channel 2's Lori Geary he was appalled to learn Cathy received an award at the civil rights organization's Saturday awards gala, celebrating champions of justice and equality.

Cole said he wrote to both the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and the National Chapter but hasn't received any response.

Several members of the gay and lesbian community are lashing out on the organization's Facebook page, calling it a slap in the face.

"Actions speak louder than money," Cole added. "They need to explain why they use the term 'equality' for someone who doesn't believe in it, but gave enough money that they overlooked it."

Cathy has said he supports the Biblical definition of the family unit and tweeted "it was a sad day" when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.

As a show of support though, customers flocked to Chick-Fil-A restaurants supporting Cathy's right to free speech.

No one from the Urban League would go on camera but sent Geary an email saying why they chose Cathy. They also posted it on organization's website and Facebook page.

The local organization's president says it chose Cathy "for the Foundation's significant contributions that support programs that empower the community – including funding for a signature program that teaches inner city youth financial literacy, and other important programs including a local food bank, an organization that supports homeless and exploited children and organizations that support youth and families in low-income communities."

Civil Rights Pioneer Congressman John Lewis also received an award Saturday night. His office released a statement to Channel 2 Action News: "Congressman Lewis is a follower of the discipline and philosophy of non-violence. That discipline dictates engagement of one's adversaries, not rejection.

"It suggests that we are one people, one family the human family and sanctions the vilification of no one, because every human being is a representation of oneself.

"People have a right to their opinion, a right to speak according to the dictates of their conscience, a right to change their mind, and a right to disagree and dissent.

"Those who disagree with the Urban League's decision to honor Dan Cathy should speak out and criticize the institution, if that permits them to follow the leading of their conscience.

"However, as for Cong. Lewis, he was an invited guest of the Urban League and his history with the institution spans 50 years, far more than just one night.

"If he can accept a car ride from Bull Connor or have a conversation with sheriff Jim Clark in keeping with the discipline of non-violence, it is unlikely he would decline to be in the same room as Mr. Cathy."

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