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The Detroit Free Press

Activists hit Ford on help for gays

Group calls boycott, says carmaker backs same-sex marriages

June 1, 2005


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,, 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.

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Love gays, hate gays, but sheesh - boycotting a company for doing what millions of companies do? All Ford did was throw money into a hot button issue of the day, which is what companies do to keep people happy.

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Group idles Ford boycott

Gay rights center of protest

June 7, 2005


Well, that was a short-lived controversy.

On Monday, the 2-million-member-strong American Family Association said it would suspend its boycott of Ford Motor Co. products that was announced just a week ago. About 20 Ford dealers complained in a Sunday afternoon meeting that the action would hurt them, not necessarily Ford, and that many dealers were sympathetic to the conservative group's objectives.

The AFA had announced the boycott last Tuesday, charging that the Dearborn-based automaker promotes same-sex marriage by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to gay groups each year.

The organization set up a Web site, , in which it accuses Ford of "extensive promotion of homosexuality."

More than 110,000 people signed the pledge to boycott Ford, although Ford has maintained that it does not have an official position on the politically charged subject of gay marriage.

But this truce might not last long.

"The Ford dealers requested that we suspend the boycott for six months and give them the opportunity to take their concerns to Ford," said Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the Tupelo, Miss.-based AFA.

He said the group will hold off on its boycott only until Dec. 1 while dealers try to convince the company to change the way it advertises and funds homosexual-related events.

In initially announcing the boycott, the AFA accused Ford of giving "hundreds of thousands of dollars to support homosexual groups and their agenda." Ford, the group alleged, forces managers to attend diversity training on how to accept homosexuality and supports commitment ceremonies and gay-pride parades. Sharp also complained Ford advertises on homosexual-themed Web sites and TV shows.

Sharp refused to name any dealers involved in the meeting, but said, "They share the same concerns that we do."

In a statement, Ford said it was pleased with the AFA's decision.

Meanwhile, the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, which is a Michigan organization that supports civil rights, advocacy and antiviolence efforts for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, said the quick cancellation of the boycott demonstrates "how irrelevant the AFA has become and how far the ultra-right wing fringe group has drifted from mainstream thinking."

Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the group, said in a statement, "We are happy that this episode was so short-lived."

But Sharp reminded that this boycott isn't over -- it's just on hold.

"We just think gay marriage is bad for our culture and our society," he said.

Contact SARAH A. WEBSTER at 313-222-5394 or [email protected].
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