MetroWeekly has a comprehensive article on the Ford mess, Roll Over: Ford puts itself at the center of the latest battle over gays and corporate America. It include an interview with John Aravosis, who is slamming Ford hard on AmericaBlog. There are good quotes and coverage on both sides of the issue.

Aravosis sees AFA’s actions as part of an overall strategy to go after the pillars of the GLBT community’s support.

They want to knock out the foundation of our movement, in this case the financial and cultural support,” he said. ”They’re going after the ones who embrace us, who support their [gay] employees…. They’re going after our strengths and knocking them down.”

Even our leather-loving friend, Peter LaBarbera tossed his two cents in; surprisingly, he’s not so sure that the American Family Association is going to succeed in the long run.

Peter LaBarbera, head of the Illinois Family Institute (IFI) and long-time anti-gay activist, said that the gay community has had a huge amount of success in recruiting corporations to its side. ”I would say the gay side is miles ahead of us,” he said. ”They were smart enough to go at it early, and make their focus not just on politics, which is a clear mistake of my side, which focused more on Washington and not as much on the cultural aspects.”

LaBarbera, who is currently working to have Walgreens and other corporations drop their sponsorship of the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago, said that the corporations don’t realize how their pro-gay activities damage their reputation with ”pro-family perspectives.”

IFI is not affiliated with AFA’s effort to boycott Ford. LaBarbera expressed some reservations about the effectiveness of boycotts, particularly if there are too many going on. ”There’s so much stuff that qualifies for [a] boycott that you have to pick and choose,” he said.

The theory that the Ford dealerships in the hinterlands are behind the pressure on Ford HQ is supported by industry insiders.

…AFA’s threatened boycott may have driven some independent Ford dealers to push the corporation to reach an agreement.

”I would say dealers played a big role in this,” said Cliff Banks, a Ward’s Auto editor and one of the reporters on the WardsAuto.com stories. ”A lot of them are in the Bible-belt area, and they were hearing a lot from their customers, saying that they were going to go along with the boycott.”Banks said that the feeling among those dealers is that AFA is a powerful group with their customers. But, he said, ”Ford could have handled the situation better.”

”It’s pretty obvious to me that Ford wanted to avoid one boycott, and avoid stepping into another boycott,” he said.

Kathleen deBold, executive director of the Mautner Project for Lesbian Health, said the Ford situation shows that the community must constantly be ready for these controversies. ”Corporations exist to make a profit, and the profit motive can make for fair-weather friends,” she said. ”This just shows why we have to be vigilant in watching what’s going on behind this scenes.” Still, she said, Ford’s actions don’t necessarily make sense from the profit perspective.

”It’s a very silly thing for a company to do, because if they want to make money, they should be selling to every consumer,” she said, noting that studies have shown the gays and lesbians are well-educated consumers who remember things for a very long time.

Oh yes, as long as the AFA is Ford’s bed-buddy, my next car won’t be a Ford, thank you very much.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding