The Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Free Press
Activists hit Ford on help for gays
Group calls boycott, says carmaker backs same-sex marriages
June 1, 2005
BY MICHAEL ELLIS
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
A week after ending its unsuccessful 9-year boycott of Disney Co., a conservative Christian organization turned its sights on Tuesday on Ford Motor Co., charging that the automaker promotes same-sex marriage by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to gay groups each year.
The American Family Association, which says it has more than 2 million members, has set up a Web site, www.BoycottFord.com, in which it accuses Ford of "extensive promotion of homosexuality."
"From redefining family to include homosexual marriage; to giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to support homosexual groups and their agenda; to forcing managers to attend diversity training on how to promote the acceptance of homosexuality; to sponsoring a commitment ceremony -- that is, 'marriage'; to sponsoring 'gay pride' parades, Ford leads the way," Donald Wildmon, founder and chairman of the Tupelo, Miss.-based group, said in a statement.
Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said Ford has no official position on gay marriage. Without responding to some other issues raised by the group, Ford defended its efforts to attract gay buyers and said it supports many diverse groups of buyers.
"Ford values all people regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences," Joe Laymon, Ford group vice president of corporate human resources and labor affairs, said in a statement. "And we are glad to see that this spirit of inclusion is evident in the practices of other automakers that do business in this country as well. It is one of the things that make us proud to be part of the auto industry."
Ford is being criticized because it offers up to $1,000 per vehicle in donations to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation when members of the group buy a Jaguar or Land Rover this year. Ford also offers up to a $500 donation to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign for each Volvo purchased by members of that organization, Evans said.
Nearly 55,000 people had signed a pledge supporting the boycott by Tuesday afternoon, AFA special projects director Randy Sharp said.
The group also cited Ford's recent pledge of $250,000 to help support a new gay community center in Ferndale. General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG also pledged $250,000 to the effort.
All three Detroit automakers recognize same-sex partners in their benefits packages to employees.
Ford was the only automaker among the 56 companies that received the highest rating last year from the Human Rights Campaign. Companies are rated on several factors, including whether they offer benefits to gay partners, donate to gay rights groups and market their products to gays.
Last week, the AFA stopped its boycott of Disney, citing what it called positive signs such as the departure of chief executive Michael Eisner and its decision to produce a movie based on the book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" which the organization says has Christian themes. The group failed to convince Disney to take up some of its issues, such as banning Gay Day celebrations at its theme parks, and it had no major impact on Disney profits.
The AFA has also called for a boycott of Kmart for what the group described as the retailer's promotion of pornography by selling what the group calls obscene music CDs.
Contact MICHAEL ELLIS at 313-222-8784 or [email protected]. The Associated Press contributed to this report.