Fairness at Ford and beyond

Ford Motor Co. has sent a much larger message that equality is a bedrock principle that should never be compromised

BY Joe Solmonese

December 15 2005 12:00 AM ET

The success at
Ford this week is a winning story of equality triumphing
over extremism. But this is a two-part tale that spans the
decades.

The first part of
the Ford saga is what happened over the last two weeks.
At the beginning of December the media started reporting
that the right-wing extremist group American Family
Association was backing off from a threatened boycott
of Ford, implying that the company had caved to their
pressure, agreeing to remove Land Rover and Jaguar
advertising from gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender–themed publications.

A coalition of
national and Michigan-based LGBT groups reacted swiftly
and with unity, urging Ford to respond and reaffirm its
commitment to fairness. About 50,000 Human Rights
Campaign advocates sent e-mails to Ford asking the
same. As things progressed we were getting conflicting
reports from Ford officials, and it became clear that we
needed to sit down with Ford officials face-to-face.
So on Monday of this week I along with my colleague
Matt Foreman from the Task Force joined other leaders
at a Washington, D.C., meeting with Ford. We were
unequivocal: They had let suspicions about a deal with
extremists fester, and their reputation as a
fair-minded corporation was on the line.

Ford responded
swiftly and aggressively. The company on Thursday
announced it was not only reinstating its Land Rover and
Jaguar advertising but also in 2006 Ford will feature
an ad campaign in LGBT publications that markets all
of its subsidiary brands.

This victory
wasn’t simply about advertising: It sent a much
larger message that fairness and equality are bedrock
principles that should never be compromised.

And that’s
the second part of this story. And it’s about you.
Twenty-five years ago when the Human Rights
Campaign’s first lobbyists were setting up shop
in Washington, D.C., the doors of fairness at U.S.
corporations were dead bolted.

Now the workplace
is the one place where people with no openly gay
friends or family members sit across from gay coworkers. Put
simply, the workplace is where our differences meet
and fear melts away. Just look at the facts: In 1980
no company offered domestic partner benefits. Today
more than 8,000 offer them. As recently as 2002 only 13
major U.S. companies scored 100% on the Human Rights
Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. Today 103
companies have perfect scores. That means they offer
health care to employee partners, prohibit discrimination
based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and
offer comprehensive diversity training, among other
policies.

Progress
doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s the
accountant who has his partner’s photo on his
desk. It’s because of the vice president who is
teaching her colleagues about gender identity as they
transition on the job. It’s because of the
straight doctor with lesbian sister who jumps in a
conversation when she hears a derogatory gay joke.

The story
isn’t over. We’re only halfway through a great
American tale that’s rich in its cast of
characters and consistently touches on the theme of
fairness and equality. We have to keep doing our part, and
the Human Rights Campaign’s new Buyer’s
Guide is one tool that can help (www.hrc.org/buyersguide). And make sure
that your friends and family support products from
companies that support equality.

On the path ahead
there may be setbacks, but things are going our way.
With fair-minded consumers and companies like Ford and other
leaders, this story is sure to have a happy ending.

Tags: Commentary

AddThis

READER COMMENTS ()

Quantcast