ORLANDO, Fla., April 5 (Reuters) - The Coca-Cola Company said it was dropping its membership in a conservative national advocacy group that supports "Stand Your Ground" laws like the one being used as a defense in the Florida killing of an unarmed black teenager.
In a statement released on Thursday, Coca-Cola made no direct mention of the controversial self-defense law pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council.
"The Coca-Cola Company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)," the statement said.
"Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our company and industry," it said.
Coca-Cola and other member companies in ALEC were targeted last year by the civil rights group ColorOfChange for their support of the organization, which also is behind what ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson calls "voter suppression laws" in many states.
Since the killing of Trayvon Martin, Robinson said, ColorOfChange has let the corporations know that ALEC was behind a push for states to adopt legislation modeled after Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. The law provides shooters with wide latitude for claiming self defense when they perceive a threat.
Martin, 17, was killed on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Florida, by George Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer who has claimed he acted in self defense and has not been charged with a crime.
At a rally in Sanford on Saturday, civil rights leaders said they were considering economic boycotts of national companies that support "Stand Your Ground" laws.
In a letter to ColorOfChange dated Jan. 25, 2012, PepsiCo told Robinson that the company had decided to drop its decade-long membership in ALEC.
Robinson said Coca-Cola made its decision on Wednesday after ColorOfChange at 9 a.m. posted a Web page criticizing Coca-Cola's continued support of ALEC. Robinson said the Web page was up for eight hours before ColorOfChange removed it based on Coca-Cola's change of heart.