Ford to Advertise In Gay Press

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ford Motor Co. yesterday said it will resume advertising Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles in gay-themed publications, following an outpouring of fury from gay groups that said Ford's recent decision to pull the ads fed anti-gay sentiment and emboldened enemies of gay rights.

"I think we're back in gear with Ford," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. "They responded to each of the concerns we raised in a positive way. It's a great outcome."

In a letter addressed to the groups, Ford said not only will it resume buying corporate ads featuring Land Rover and Jaguar, it will begin advertising Ford's other brands in gay-themed publications as well. In the past, Ford had not purchased advertisements for the Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands in gay-oriented publications.

The letter, written by Joe W. Laymon, Ford's group vice president for corporate human resources, stated that he hoped the ad reversal will "remove any ambiguity about Ford's desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue behind us."

Ford also said it will continue to support nonprofit groups and events in the gay and transgender communities. Additionally, Ford reiterated its commitment to supporting gay employees in the automaker's workforce. Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker, has received high marks for those efforts from the gay community in the past.

Laymon met with representatives from several gay groups on Monday to hear their concerns. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the discussions with Ford were "incredibly constructive." To protest Ford's decision, the groups began marshaling members from nearly 20 gay organizations to complain to Ford through mail and e-mail. "This had a great deal to do with pressure from our community," Solmonese said. "We made our views absolutely clear."

In May, the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association threatened Ford with a boycott because it objected to the automaker extending partner benefits to gay employees, and because Ford supported gay events and advertised in gay publications.

A spokesman for the American Family Association said the group had no comment on Ford's reversal. The group owns 200 radio stations under the American Family Radio name and claims more than 3 million supporters. Last month, the association canceled its boycott after meeting with Ford officials and dealers. A dealer who attended the meeting said he initiated the summit because he and other Ford dealers in the South feared that a boycott would hurt sales.

Ford officials have maintained that they did not make a secret deal with the American Family Association to pull the advertising. But gay groups questioned the timing of the ad withdrawals and the decision by the American Family Association to call off the boycott.

According to the dealer who participated in the meetings, Ford's willingness to meet with the AFA leaders led to the cancellation of the boycott. At the about the same time, Ford announced that it was canceling advertising of Jaguar and Land Rover in the gay-themed publications.

Gay groups accused Ford of making a secret deal with the Christian group to pull back the ads in exchange for dropping the boycott.

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