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Monday, December 12, 2005

Detroit News Gay Columnist, Deb Price Says Michigan Gays Willing to Forgive Ford

John Aravosis wasn't invited to the meeting between Ford and Gays - so he's talking about notching it up with his campaign against Ford.

Deb Price from the Detroit newspaper has a different perspective.


So nowhere more than in the Motor City are gay folks stunned by the news that Ford, following talks with the anti-gay American Family Association about its boycott threats, announced the company will no longer advertise Jaguars and Land Rovers in the gay press.

Ford insists any suggestion it is retreating from its gay-friendly history "is just plain wrong." But it also says, "We don't intend -- directly or indirectly -- to take sides on controversial or emotionally charged social or moral issues." Hmmmm.

As we say in my business, "More will be revealed." But Ford's stumbling p.r. efforts have left Motor City gay folks feeling hurt or confused, yet eager to give an old friend the benefit of the doubt. As many put it, "I think Ford just made a blunder; I've made plenty."

Leslie Thompson, executive director of gay Affirmations, wants to believe Ford's decision not to advertise anything but Volvos in the gay press was "driven strictly by a business case." Ford, she notes, was the first of the Big Three to contribute $250,000 toward building Metro Detroit's $5.3 million gay community center, set to open next year. That $250,000 check was a record donation by a Fortune 500 firm.

"It's impossible to begin to explain how much the Big Three make a difference," says Thompson. "We create a safe space. You can walk down the hallway holding your partner's hand. Or just say 'I'm gay' out loud and not be afraid."

One big new gay fear is that Ford has lost its way. The cover of Between the Lines, Michigan's gay paper, captures that worry: A gay-pride rainbow bumper sticker on a Ford pickup has had "AFA" plastered over it. Where did the gay artist get the Ford pickup? She owns it.

The other new fear among those of us who're gay and prize the jobs Ford provides and the good it does is that gay national groups will lash out. Between the Lines wisely pleads that anyone mulling a gay boycott instead "come to Michigan. See the hard-won benefits and donations before you work to dismantle this valuable relationship."

As anti-gay rhetoric heated up in the 1990s, Ford did have a better idea -- reach out to gay workers and customers. Now, Ford's loyal gay friends are eager to forgive and forget. We just need to hear Ford say, without hedging, that it still values having a good relationship with us.

Let's see what happens at the meeting. Gay leaders from Michigan are being included.