Gay-rights group drops boycott against Garff

Bruce Bastian helped negotiate a deal.

By Tony Semerad
The Salt Lake Tribune

02/27/2009 03:59:02 PM MST

A California gay-rights group announced Friday it is formally ending a boycott of one of Utah’s most high-profile car dealerships.

Californians Against Hate had called for a boycott of Ken Garff Automotive Group’s 53 dealerships in six states in retaliation for a $100,000 donation made by Garff family matriarch Katharine Garff in support of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, part of a total of $3.8 million donated for and against Prop 8 by Utahns.

The same-sex-marriage ban is now being challenged in Calfornia Supreme Court.
Fred Karger, director of Californians Against Hate, said Friday the two-week boycott of Ken Garff Automotive Group was being called off immediately, following a series of meetings that included face-to-face discussions between company principals John and Robert Garff and Utah philanthropist Bruce Bastian, a leading gay-rights advocate.

“We’re just ecstatic,” said Karger, who said his group was moving swiftly to take down a Web site and other Internet presences associated with the boycott. “It’s a wonderful situation … a happy ending.”

Said Bastian: “We were able to discuss this openly and honestly with the Garffs and reach an understanding. I think they understand now why this was upsetting and hurtful to many people.”
The former Word Perfect executive said, among other steps, the Garff company would be formally adopting “a non-discriminatory company policy, even though they are pretty much there already.”
Bastian declined to outline any other conditions of the settlement.

John Garff, the company’s CEO, has insisted that his mother’s $100,000 donation was a personal gesture and in no way reflected the company’s political stance.

He declined to comment further Friday, except to say, “I believe we all came away from those meetings with a greater level of mutual respect and understanding.”