A vote against discrimination

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We commend the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies for endorsing the right of marketers to target gay consumers. This is good business. It's also a strong reminder that discrimination and intolerance are not the American way.

The ANA and 4A's signed on as supporters of the Principle of Free Market Advertising Expression, conceived by the Commercial Closet Association, a gay-advocacy group.

The principle states: "In America, all companies have the basic right to determine their own market expression-by advertising and selling to all customers respectfully and inclusively. We oppose all forms of attacks intended to disrupt free commerce based on intolerance or hostility toward any consumers, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."

This declaration is welcome at a time when corporate America is under assault from extremist groups such as Donald Wildmon's American Family Association. The AFA is boycotting Ford Motor Co. for, among other transgressions, advertising in gay media, promoting diversity and sponsoring a gay-pride event's "family area" that featured Dr. Dinosaur, Mr. Bubbles and tips on family safety. (Boycotts do make nice fundraisers; Mr. Wildmon's letter about the Ford boycott asks supporters for "a small gift," and the AFA collected $10.9 million in such gifts last fiscal year.)

Ford's response? It's standing by its family values of nondiscrimination and inclusiveness. And it's doing the right thing for shareholders by trying to sell more cars to a lucrative market. Ford's in good company: The nation's 10 largest advertisers on average scored 93 out of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index, a report card by the gay-advocacy group Human Rights Campaign on everything from employee benefits to how companies market to gays. Companies that embrace diversity are the mainstream.

The AFA and allied groups are free to boycott whomever they want. But marketers must not let fringe groups set an agenda of intolerance. We salute the ANA, the 4A's and Commercial Closet for championing the right principle.
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