By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
TUPELO, Miss. – Undeterred by unsuccessful “boycott of the month” attempts against companies including Disney, Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble and Orbitz, the American Family Association, a self-styled Christian group with an anti-gay agenda, has called for a boycott of Ford Motor Company.
The boycott comes two months after Ford reiterated its strong support of, and desire to market to, the LGBT community. Ford reiterated this support after a misunderstanding following a Nov. 28 meeting between a few Ford executives, dealers, and representatives of the AFA.
Eighteen comparatively unknown anti-gay groups, ranging from Citizens for Community Values to Mayday for Marriage, have joined the boycott as of press time.
According to an email sent by the AFA to its mailing list, “The homosexual groups are very dedicated to their cause. They are urging their supporters to buy a Ford product to prove to Ford and America that Americans support homosexual marriage. The success of the boycott will depend on whether or not pro-family individuals are as dedicated to their cause as the homosexuals are to theirs. If pro-family individuals fail to respond with the same commitment as the homosexuals, homosexual marriage will be given a huge boost.”
The AFA and other organizations are asking members to sign a petition, call their local Ford dealers, send an email to Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford, and collect signatures and contact information on boycott petitions.
The organizations have set up a web site, www.boycottford.com, which collects the email addresses of petition signatories.
Despite the fact that in the unlikely event that the boycott is successful it could hurt the ailing automaker and thus hurt families due to layoffs, the boycottford.com web site says, “AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon says that complaints about the boycott from dealers and others should go to chairman Bill Ford at Ford Motor Company, not to AFA.”
“This is just getting a little old,” said Jeff Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation. “Ford has made its position very clear. It is a position that is respectful and acknowledging the diversity of its customers and employees. It’s made a very principled decision on this matter. For that we can be very happy and they should be very proud. People who want to continue to poke sticks in these kinds of things and bully people don’t serve anybody. There’s nothing helpful, positive, or rational about people who want to continue to create controversy and an issue over this whole Ford matter.”
Kathleen Vokes, a spokesperson for Ford, said that the company will be sticking to its pro-equality guns.
In an emailed statement to BTL, Vokes said, “Ford is proud of its tradition of treating all with respect, and we remain focused on what we do best – building and selling the most innovative cars and trucks.”
Mike Wilke, founder of Commercial Closet, a five-year-old organization that educates corporate advertisers about LGBT inclusion, homophobia/transphobia, and LGBT stereotypes in mainstream advertising, said, “Historically we’ve not seen a meaningful impact on sales by any company with that has been boycotted by organizations like the AFA. The greatest power that the AFA and its counterparts seem to have is dragging the names of companies through the media mud.”
However, Wilke said that Ford might not be facing its current difficulties if it had done what other companies have done – ignore the right-wing organizations while responding to individual complaints.
“This is hardly an unexpected situation for any company that has done gay marketing because the AFA is a repeat offender of trying to draw these companies into public embarrassment,” Wilke said. “The recommendation is normally not to engage in discourse with these sorts of organizations even while acknowledging the concerns of individuals.”
“In the last year … the fundamentalists have felt empowered and have had almost a monthly target corporation,” Wilke continued, pointing out that companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, Orbitz, Motorola, Avis and Allstate have been targeted.
“These companies have done some sort of marketing or acknowledgement of gay consumers,” he said. “In every case, aside from Ford so far, the companies have not played tennis with the AFA – they have not engaged in discourse over the issues AFA has tried to raise, nor have they been bogged down in a situation like the one Ford is now in.” (See “Built Ford Tough? AFA claims victory, but Ford says no,” online at https://www.pridesource.com/articles.shtml?article=16860)