Though conflict initially brought them into contact, the leader of a gay rights organization said Monday he had become friends with Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy.

"Yes, after months of personal phone calls, text messages and in-person meetings, I am coming out in a new way, as a friend of Chick-fil-A’s president and COO, Dan Cathy, and I am nervous about it," Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, wrote on Monday. "I have come to know him and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible when I first started hearing from LGBT students about their concerns over the chicken chain’s giving practices."

The deeply Christian fast food chain became the target of a boycott last year after Cathy spoke out against same-sex marriage. He said Chick-fil-A was “guilty as charged” when it came to financially supporting organizations that opposed LGBT rights. The fast food chain gave nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2010.

The issue soon erupted into a national controversy. While groups like Campus Pride planned boycotts and “kiss-in” protests against Chick-fil-A, conservatives showed their support by holding a "buycott" and driving up sales.

But the criticism directed at Chick-fil-A appears to have been a success. After reviewing recent tax documents, Windmeyer confirmed that Chick-fil-A no longer donated to anti-LGBT groups like the Family Research Council, Eagle Forum and Exodus International.

The fast food chain still gave to groups that did not condone same-sex marriage, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. However, those groups do not lobby against LGBT rights.

Windmeyer praised Cathy for personally reaching out to him to better understand the situation. Though Cathy was unapologetic about his religious beliefs, he also expressed remorse that his fast food chain had become an icon for anti-gay sentiments.

"I will not change my views, and Dan will likely not change his, but we can continue to listen, learn and appreciate 'the blessing of growth' that happens when we know each other better," Windmeyer concluded. "I hope that our nation’s political leaders and campus leaders might do the same."

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[Image via Flickr user Link576, Creative Commons licensed]