DETROIT – A conservative Christian group launched a boycott against Ford Motor Co. (F) Tuesday, saying the second-largest U.S. automaker has given thousands of dollars to gay rights groups, offers benefits to same-sex couples and actively recruits gay employees.
"From redefining family to include homosexual marriage, to giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to support homosexual groups and their agenda, to forcing managers to attend diversity training on how to promote the acceptance of homosexuality... Ford leads the way," American Family Association (search) chairman Donald Wildmon said in a statement.
Ford responded that it respects its customers and employees.
"Ford values all people, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences," Ford vice president of human resources Joe Laymon said.
General Motors Corp. (GM) and Chrysler Corp. also provide benefits for same-sex partners.
Tupelo, Miss.-based AFA said it e-mailed an announcement about the Ford boycott to 2.2 million supporters. AFA special projects director Randy Sharp said nearly 55,000 people had signed a pledge supporting the boycott by Tuesday afternoon.
Ford was the only automaker among the 56 companies that got the highest rating last year from the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Companies are rated on several factors, including whether they offer benefits to gay partners, donate to gay rights groups and market their products to gays.
Sharp said he is upset by Ford's marketing tactics in gay-oriented publications, including offering to donate $1,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (search) for every Jaguar or Land Rover sold.
"Ford is willing to do something they have refused to do for any other group," Sharp said.
Ford spokesman Oscar Suris said the company donated $77.9 million to a wide variety of groups last year. The majority — $39.6 million — went to education, he said. A much smaller percentage went to community organizations for gays, Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other groups.
The AFA recently ended a nine-year boycott of The Walt Disney Co. over Disney's decision to extend benefits to same-sex couples and promote gay-related events at its theme parks. The boycott appeared to have little effect, since Disney reported higher earnings and increased theme park attendance during that time.