By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 4, 2008
A group that opposes same-sex marriage has called for a boycott of McDonald's, saying the fast-food giant has refused "to stay neutral in the cultural war over homosexuality."
The American Family Association (AFA) launched the boycott yesterday because McDonald's joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce several months ago and placed an executive on the group's board of directors, in addition to donating to the chamber.
The association asked McDonald's to remove itself from the chamber but the burger-maker declined, leading to the boycott. "We're saying that there are people who support AFA who don't appreciate their dollars from the hamburgers they bought being put into an organization that's going to fight against the values they believe in," Tim Wildmon, the association's president, said yesterday.
"Hatred has no place in our culture," McDonald's USA spokesman Bill Whitman said. "That includes McDonald's, and we stand by and support our people to live and work in a society free of discrimination and harassment."
In March, the association ended a two-year boycott of Ford after the automaker largely stopped advertising its Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles in the gay media. The association also has boycotted retailer Target for substituting "holiday" for "Christmas" in its advertising and the Walt Disney Co. for its "embrace of the homosexual lifestyle."
Corporations increasingly are courting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender markets for their buying power and trendsetting value. This translates into corporate sponsorships of events, such as gay pride festivals, and advertising targeted at nonheterosexual consumers.
As a result, faith-based groups such as the AFA are following the example practiced for years by the secular left, which has targeted corporations for their policies on environmental, workplace and human-rights issues.
The AFA "exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth and traditional family values," the group's Web site reads. The organization, based in Tupelo, Miss., has 2.8 million people on its e-mail alert system and sends its monthly magazine to 170,000 people, Wildmon said.
Wildmon said his group wants McDonald's to give up its membership in the chamber, which is located in Dupont Circle, next year and to remove its logo from the chamber's Web site. "I think the request we're making is more than fair," Wildmon said.
A call to chamber president Justin G. Nelson was not returned.
Wildmon said that his group would not object if McDonald's gave money to a group that, for instance, assisted gay HIV/AIDS patients. "You wouldn't hear from us," he said. "That would be classified as humanitarian aid." The AFA has planned no on-site protests, Wildmon said.
In a May 29 letter to Wildmon, McDonald's global chief diversity officer Pat Harris wrote: "McDonald's is associated with countless local and national affinity groups. . . . We have a well-established and proud heritage of associating with individuals and organizations that share the belief that every person has the right to live and work in a community free of discrimination."
On its new Web site, BoycottMcDonalds.com, AFA says the boycott is not about McDonald's hiring or serving gay patrons or its treatment of gay employees. Instead, the boycott is motivated by McDonald's throwing "the full weight of their corporation to promoting the homosexual agenda, including homosexual marriage."
Ascertaining the impact of such boycotts can be tricky. Ford's monthly sales slumped at times during the AFA boycott, but so did those of General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota. The boycott coincided with an industry-wide slide in sales of SUVs and trucks, Ford's core products. "It is so difficult to sort out what cause and effect is today with the number of variables that are in play," said David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research.
Ford, which has sold its Jaguar and Land Rover lines, said gay-oriented ads constituted a small slice of its marketing budget. When cuts were made, mainstream-market advertising was reduced, while niche advertising was all but eliminated.
In a March statement, the company said: "Ford will continue to market its products widely to attract as many customers as possible and make charitable contributions to strengthen communities to the extent business conditions allow. Difficult business conditions in recent years have reduced our overall spending across the board."