March 14, 2006

Group launches Ford boycott over gay support

By Poornima Gupta

DETROIT (Reuters) - A conservative Christian group has
launched a boycott of Ford Motor Co., saying the automaker had
reneged on a pledge to drop its advertising in gay publications
and support of gay rights groups.

The Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association
first threatened a boycott in May, but suspended the move in
June after several Ford dealers stepped in to broker a

In December, Ford decided to pull advertising for its
Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands from gay publications. It
then reversed course after coming under fire from gay-rights
activists for having conceded to pressure from the AFA.

The controversy comes at a difficult time for Ford, which
is struggling to reverse a slide in market share and return its
core automotive operations to profitability.

"Ford has every right to give hundreds of thousands of
dollars to groups promoting homosexual marriage. But those who
oppose homosexual marriage have every right not to buy
automobiles made by Ford Motor Company," the AFA said in a
statement on its Web site.

The group is headed by Don Wildmon, a United Methodist
minister, and its Web site says it has 3 million "supporters."

Randy Sharp, AFA's director of special projects, told
Reuters on Tuesday the group did not offer any formal
membership, but over 3 million people had signed up on their
Web site to receive e-mail updates.

He said the group's Ford boycott was being backed by 19
other groups, but gave no further information on them.

Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said in response to the
boycott announcement, "Ford is proud of its tradition of
treating all with respect and we remain focused on that we do
best, building and selling innovative cars and trucks

Sharp said while other automakers "certainly aren't squeaky
clean," the AFA was focusing its efforts on Ford because it
"overwhelmingly supported the homosexual groups more than any
other automaker."

Ford is not the first company to come under fire for its
stance on homosexual rights. Other large companies including
Microsoft Corp. and Walt Disney Co. have also found themselves
facing demands from groups on both sides of the debate.

In declaring a one-year boycott of Ford, the AFA cited the
car maker's sponsorship of gay-pride events in the United
States and Britain and its practice of requiring employees to
undergo diversity training.

"The goal of every homosexual organization supported by
Ford is to get homosexual marriage legalized," the AFA said.