Dan Cathy, the Chick-fil-A CEO publicly opposed to same-sex marriage, has been given an equality award at a gala dinner celebrating Equal Opportunity Day.

The Urban League of Greater Atlanta handed Dan Cathy its Community Empowerment Award on Saturday.

The award was intended to celebrate his charitable works around inner city issues and disadvantaged youth. However, activists have criticised the decision, saying that it contradicts Mr Cathy’s previous stances against LGBT equality.

The Urban League of Atlanta released a statement addressing these concerns which read: “The Community Empowerment Award is presented to an organization that has made significant contributions to advance community empowerment.

“The Urban League of Greater Atlanta is awarding the Chick-fil-A Foundation and Cathy for the Foundation’s significant financial contributions that support programs that empower communities – including funding for a signature program that teaches inner city youth financial literacy [and] a local community food bank.

“Please be assured that the Urban League of Greater Atlanta supports and works for equal rights for all people, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or physical ability. This includes the recent Employment Non-Discrimination Act that was passed out of the US Senate this week.”

In June, Mr Cathy tweeted strong message opposing the federal strike-down of the Defense of Marriage Act, before deleting it.

Back in July, Cathy publicly confirmed that the company was opposed to equal marriage.

He told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged”, when asked about its perceived opposition to equal marriage.

There was then a drawn-out mix of messages coming out of the company over several months, some seeming to suggest that executives wanted to distance Chick-fil-A from the controversy, others confirming that it has maintained its anti-gay policy. The Chick-fil-A statement released said it intended “to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”