Dan Cathy, the CEO of Atlanta-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A who made headlines nearly two years ago for denouncing gay marriage, opened up about his controversial statements in a new interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.

"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."

In the summer of 2012, Cathy, 61, condemned gay marriage in a radio interview, saying same-sex marriage supporters are "arrogant" for going against God. He also defended Chick-fil-A’s longstanding anti-gay stance

"I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ’We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’" Cathy said. "And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."

When he was criticized for his comments, Cathy said he was "guilty as charged" and is very "supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit."

"We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that," Cathy told the Baptist Press back in 2012.

Two years later, Cathy says his comments and the drama that ensued not long after, still lingers, even though the company put out press releases saying they do not discriminate against customers or employees based on sexual orientation. Nevertheless, he said that he won’t change the fast food’s Christian-based policies, including closing stores on Sundays and supporting the traditional family.

"Probably the elements that were stressful for me most is from our internal staff and from operators and how this may be affecting them," Cathy 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."

It should be noted, however, that Think Progress reported earlier this month that tax documents state Chick-fil-A’s foundations (WinShape Foundation and the Chick-fil-A Foundation) dramatically reduced its donations to anti-gay marriage groups.

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution interview, Cathy talked about his use of social media, specifically Twitter. Last June he tweeted his disappointment when the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

"Sad day for our nation; founding fathers would be ashamed of our gen. to abandon wisdom of the ages re: cornerstone of strong societies," he wrote, but then quickly deleted the tweet.

Cathy said he decided to step back from the gay marriage debate after praying and talking with co-workers and friends, including Shane Windmeyer, a gay supporter of marriage equality who helped Cathy understand why marriage was important to the gay community, the newspaper writes.

Still, his views on same-sex marriage have not changed.

"I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word and I’m just personally committed to that," he said. "I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine."

When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked how he feels about anti-gay measures that would allow business owners to turn down LGBT customers in the name of religion, Cathy said:

"I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on. And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service"

From our media partner EDGE