Ford Motor Co.
shareholders will decide whether to amend the company's
equal-employment policy to exclude sexual orientation as a
protected characteristic after the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission denied Ford's
request to keep the issue off its proxy statement, the
automaker said Tuesday. Ford's policy currently says the
company won't discriminate on the basis of sexual
orientation, gender, religion, and other factors.
Shareholder Robert Hurley of Alton, Ill., has
submitted a proposal recommending that Ford change its
policy to exclude any reference to sexual interests,
activities, or orientation. Ford asked the SEC to
exclude the proposal from its proxy statement, saying it
would hurt the company's ability to recruit since some
universities require companies to include sexual
orientation in their policies. Ford also said publicity
over changing the policy could hurt sales to gay rights supporters.
But in a recent decision, the SEC said Ford
can't exclude the proposal. The SEC said a rule that
allows companies to reject proposals that deal with
"ordinary business operations" doesn't apply to this case.
Ford is sending its proxy statement to
shareholders on Friday, spokeswoman Becky Sanch said.
Shareholders will vote on the proposals, and the
results will be announced at the company's annual meeting
May 11. "We will include it, and we will have our
comments in the proxy statement," Sanch said.
The SEC agreed with Ford's decision to keep
other proposals off the proxy statement, including one
that would have required the company to pay managers
no more than $500,000 per year.
Ford has been involved in an ongoing
struggle with the American Family Association and
other far-right conservative groups over the issue of
marketing to gays. In December, Ford said it would stop
advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands in gay
publications to reduce marketing costs, though the AFA
claimed that a threatened boycott resulted in Ford's
pulling the ads. But after meeting with several
gay rights groups, Ford said it would place ads featuring
all eight of its brands in gay publications.
Last month 19 conservative groups reinstated the
boycott against Ford over the issue. The AFA said
Tuesday that it supports the SEC's decision. "I find
Ford's logic in asking the SEC to omit the resolution
interesting," AFA chairman Don Wildmon said in a statement.
"In essence Ford is saying they are concerned that a
boycott by homosexual groups would financially hurt
the company but the boycott by the pro-family groups
Ford shares fell 9 cents, or 1.2%, to close at
$7.68 on the New York Stock Exchange. (AP)