INDIO – The Desert Stonewall Democrats, which has called for a boycott of four auto dealerships because they claim a co-owner contributed to the campaign on behalf of Proposition 8, expect to conduct a public protest this week, the group’s vice chair said.
Leaders of the gay and lesbian group voted 11-2 Saturday to conduct the boycott of Toyota of the Desert, Honda of the Desert and Acura of the Desert in Cathedral City, and Ken Garff Cadillac-Chevrolet in La Quinta, Desert Stonewall Democrats vice chair Roger Tansey said.
The date and location of the protest is still being discussed, Tansey said Monday.
Tansey alleges that Katherine Garff, who made a $100,000 donation in October to the yes on Proposition 8 campaign, is a co-owner of the business, but did not provide any proof.
Tansey promised to supply City News Service with documents demonstrating the elder Garff’s co-ownership Monday, but did not do so.
However, a co-owner of the dealerships, John Garff, said Monday his mother is not an owner or shareholder of the dealerships.
“My mother is a stockholder in our dealerships in Utah, not outside of Utah,” Garff said. “The money (to support Proposition 8) came from private funds.”
The younger Garff said his mother has “never been on the payroll” for the California dealerships and the money she donated was not from the company’s profits.
“We are not anti-gay,” Garff said, adding that he is open to meeting with the Desert Stonewall Democrats.
Garff said he met with the group twice before they voted to boycott the dealerships.
Tansey said today that he researched who owns the dealerships more than a month ago and believes Katherine Garff is a part-owner of the California dealerships, despite her son’s claims.
Tansey said information about who exactly owns the dealerships is not public record because they are owned by privately held corporations.
“They were owned by a private family owned corporation with the same address as Katherine Garff’s private foundation (in Utah),” Tansey said.
The dealerships are part of a limited liability corporation incorporated in Delaware. The state’s Division of Corporations could not be reached to determine whether Katherine Garff is a part-owner of the California dealerships.
In a release announcing the boycott, Desert Stonewall Democrats told the elder Garff, a Salt Lake City-area resident, “You’re not in Utah any more.”
“You can’t take gay dollars and spend them against us,” Tansey said. “Not without retribution.”
In November, roughly 52 percent of California voters to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. A last-minute wave of financial contributions from Utah, plus political organizing from Utah residents, was cited as a reason for the measure’s passage.
Utah is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Proposition 8 opponents charge the Mormon church with orchestrating the political effort. The church has strongly denied those accusations.
Earlier this year, a group called “Californians Against Hate” organized a boycott against the Salt Lake City-based chain of dealerships owned by the Garff family. However, it was called off quickly after company Chief Executive Officer and President John Garff met with the Californians.
The company has a zero-tolerance discrimination clause for its dealerships and began to meet and support Utah-based gay and lesbian organizations, Garff said.
That was not enough for the Coachella Valley group.
A leader of another group that earlier this year called for boycotting 53 Garff family auto dealerships in six states suggested members of the political group meet with members of the Garff family.
Fred Karger, the Los Angeles-based director of Californians Against Hate, called off his group’s boycott in late February after meeting with members of the Garff family and a gay-rights advocate in Utah.
“We are in a civil rights battle, and any chance to dialogue with the other side is good,” Karger said. “The Garffs seem like good people who are willing to listen.”
Desert Stonewall Democrats knew of the earlier short boycott by Californians Against Hate and decided to call their boycott anyway, Tansey said.
“It’s my understanding the Garffs agreed to fund some gay and lesbian groups in Utah,” Tansey said. “Mr. Karger can do whatever he wants, but the damage was done here in California, not in Utah.”
Karger said the Garffs also agreed to fund at least one national gay and lesbian group.