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Gay and lesbian organizations asked Ford Motor Co. on Monday to reinstate advertising for its luxury Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay publications and to distance itself from an antigay group that had threatened to boycott the automaker's vehicles. Ford officials met with leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and other organizations in Washington, D.C., after the automaker said last week its luxury brands would no longer advertise in gay publications.
The move came nearly a week after the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association withdrew its threat of a boycott of Ford vehicles, which it made in May amid criticism that the nation's number 2 automaker was too gay-friendly. Ford told the gay rights groups that the company is still gay-friendly and that its sponsorships of gay events and causes would continue at the same level, although the ad cutback announcement stands.
Ford has said it did not make the decision because of the boycott or pressure from conservative Christian groups. It said Jaguar and Land Rover, part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, cut back on its marketing across the board because of difficult market conditions. The Premier Automotive Group posted a pretax loss of $108 million in the third quarter.
Ford said in a statement that it is "always willing to engage in constructive conversation with those interested in our policies, even with those who don't always agree with them. But only Ford Motor Company speaks for Ford Motor Company. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect." The automaker said that "during these budget-tightening times, our brands must make tough choices where to advertise and how to spend limited sponsorship dollars." The statement did not mention the AFA.
Ford said last week that its Volvo brand would continue to advertise in gay publications. The automaker has not advertised its Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury brands in similar outlets. Ford chairman and CEO Bill Ford said in a statement, "We value all people...regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural or physical differences."
AFA chairman Donald Wildmon said in a November 30 statement that the group would not boycott Ford, noting that "while we still have a few differences with Ford, we feel that our concerns are being addressed in good faith and will continue to be addressed in the future."
GLAAD president Neil Giuliano, who participated in the meeting, said, "The perception in the gay community is that Ford Motor Co. has made a deal with our virulent adversary, and we're not happy about that, and they need to do something about that."
Ford has been credited for providing an inclusive work environment for gays and lesbians, and it was the only automaker to receive a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign's corporate equality index in 2004 and 2005. The survey considers policies and practices toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers. Ford, General Motors Corp., and DaimlerChrysler AG introduced domestic-partner benefits for their gay employees in 2000. (AP)