An anti gay group is leading a new protest against the Ford motor company because of the manufacturers support for homosexuality.

The founder of the American Family Association, along with 28 other pro-family groups, has announced a one-year boycott of Ford over the automaker’s support of homosexual-rights groups that promote gay marriage.

Shareholders at the Ford Motor Company are set to decide whether to exclude sexual orientation from the company’s equal employment policy.

Ford had asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to allow it to keep the resolution from being raised at its annual meeting, the automaker said yesterday.

The Ford Motor Company’s policy promises that the company won’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, religion and other factors. Some shareholders have called for the removal of “sexual orientation” from the policy, but officials worry that this would affect the company’s sales to gay activists and its ability to recruit because some universities require companies to include sexual orientation in their policies.

Shareholder Robert Hurley has submitted a proposal recommending Ford change its policy to exclude any reference to sexual interests, activities or orientation at an annual board meeting next month.

Ford asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to keep the measure off its proxy statement during the May 11 board meeting in Delaware, but the federal agency refused Ford’s request, saying that a rule that allows companies to reject proposals that deal with “ordinary business operations” does not apply to this case.

AFA founder and chairman Donald Wildmon said: “In essence Ford is saying they are concerned that a boycott by homosexual groups would financially hurt the company, but the boycott by the pro-family groups will not,”

“So they tried to keep (the proposal) off the ballot, but it is still going to be on the ballot.”

Ford could have avoided the entire controversy, said Mr Wildmon. “All this [shareholder-proposed] resolution does is ask Ford to remain neutral in the homosexual culture war, which is exactly what we asked Ford to do back in January, and which is precisely what Ford refused to do.”

The company has previously faced boycotts from anti gay groups over its advertisements in gay publications, however, Ford continues to state its support for gay rights, a company statement previously said, the automaker’s “commitment to diversity as an employer and corporate citizen remains unchanged.

“We have employment policies that are second to none regarding our commitment to inclusion. Any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong.”

The BoycottFord.com campaign was announced in early March after Ford allegedly backed out of an agreement to stop funding homosexual groups which promote homosexual marriage.

Ford reported this week that sales fell five percent in March. The automaker attributed the decline primarily to a waning interest in its sport utility vehicles (SUVs). In the last week Ford shares have also dropped.