IN Pride sources tell Advance Indiana that Don Hinds Ford has generously participated in past Pride events at the urging of one of its gay employees. This year was thought to be no different. The dealer volunteered to furnish Ford vehicles to pull 4 of the parade floats this year and reserved a booth for the Pride festival.
As part of its sponsorship of IN Pride, The Word, Indiana's largest GLBT newspaper, publishes a guide for the festival, which includes all of the sponsors for the event. A short time after the latest edition of The Word hit the streets, AI is told that Don Hinds Ford received a few phone calls from anti-gay bigots who expressed their disapproval of the Ford dealer's sponsorship of a gay event. Shamefully, Don Hinds Ford capitulated to the demands of the anti-gay bigots by pulling its sponsorship and its offer to furnish 4 vehicles to tow parade floats. Pride parade co-chair Scott VanKirk was left scrambling at the last minute to find replacement vehicles. Burd Ford generously stepped up and furnished the vehicles needed for the parade, saving the day.
Last year, the American Family Association launched a boycott against the Ford Motor Company as “the company which has done the most to affirm and promote the homosexual lifestyle.” Later, the boycott was called off after Ford reached an agreement with the AFA to end certain advertising and promotional efforts targeted to gays. After a major backlash from the gay community, Ford Motor dropped its agreement with the AFA. As Business Week reported:
Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday afternoon said it will run ads in gay publications, reversing a decision last week to pull advertising of its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands from such publications. In a letter to gay, lesbian and human rights groups, Ford said it has decided to run ads for all eight of its brands--Ford, Ford Truck, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover in gay targeted publications. Previously, Ford did not advertise Ford, Lincoln, Mercury in gay publications.
"It is my hope that this will remove any ambiguity about Ford's desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue behind us," Joe Laymon, Ford's group vice president for corporate human resources, wrote in the letter, which was posted on Ford's web site.
It is unclear whether the calls made to Don Hinds Ford were part of an organized effort by a group like the AFA of Indiana, or they were simply random calls from anti-gay bigots. Regardless, the long-term implications for Don Hinds Ford are not good. As news spreads throughout the area's GLBT community about its sponsorship decision, people are going to shop elsewhere for a new car. Its decision will also likely have a very chilling effect on the work atmosphere for its gay employees. Somebody may need to remind the Ford dealer's management that it is against the law in Indianapolis to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. By bowing to the wishes of people who favor discrimination against gays and lesbians, Don Hinds Ford is effectively promoting an atmosphere of intolerance.
There still may be hope. Perhaps the dealer will acknowledge its past mistake and alter its course in the future, just as the Ford Motor Company did when it confronted the same issue. If you would like to let Don Hinds Ford know how you feel about its decision to pull its sponsorship of IN Pride, e-mail the company's president, Bud Colglazier at firstname.lastname@example.org.