That is the question for LGBTs angry over donations by Target, Best Buy to anti-gay politician
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Although Target and Best Buy have a 100 percent rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, they were removed last week from HRC’s Buying for Equality guide.
Fred Sainz, HRC vice president of communications and marketing, called the move “unprecedented.”
At issue are donations the companies made to MN Forward, a political action committee supporting anti-gay Minnesota Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer.
Target donated $150,000 and Best Buy contributed $100,000 to the PAC.
Emmer supports a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He is affiliated with the Christian rock band You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, which has advocated violence against LGBT people.
Gays “play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator. On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out,” the band’s front man, Bradlee Dean, has said.
“These are nice people,” Emmer said of Dean, who has also said that Muslims are upholding the laws of God by calling for the execution of gays.
Sainz said the corporate index measures a company’s workplace practices as they relate to their employees. Most of the score is based on certain fixed criteria such as offering domestic partner insurance and having nondiscrimination policies in place that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sainz said that up to 15 points can be added for outreach and marketing to the LGBT community. The same number of points may be deducted for contributing to organizations that fight equality or to discriminatory ballot measures.
“Target and Best Buy got 100 percent and deserved the score at the time,” he said. “It’s just a snapshot in time.”
Buying for Equality is made up of companies listed in the CEI that consumers would use. While Lockheed Martin received a 100 percent rating, few people reading the buyers’ guide shop for aircraft engines, Sainz said.
The guide “sends the message to support these companies,” Sainz said.
Target bookends Oak Lawn with one store at Central Expressway and Haskell Avenue and another on Marsh Lane at Northwest Highway, just past Love Field.
Best Buy has an active LGBT employees group in the Dallas area. A local representative of the group said any statement on the issue should come from corporate headquarters, but the corporate spokesperson did not return calls.
Target has a gay employee group but none active locally. North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda said that those groups are more common at retail companies’ corporate headquarters and distribution centers than in the stores themselves.
Sainz said that consumer anger has been directed more at Target than Best Buy.
“We go to Target once a week,” he said. “We feel personally betrayed.”
He said that Best Buy is where he goes for electronics but shops there much less frequently.
No formal boycott of either store has been organized, but many in the LGBT community as well as allies and others concerned with social justice issues have stayed out of both Target and Best Buy since the donations were made public.
Employees at Target at Cityplace refused to say whether or not their business has been affected and told this reporter to leave the store.
Neither company reports a financial impact, but three investment funds controlling $57.5 million in stock have filed shareholder complaints.
The New York Times ran an editorial highlighting the company’s public relations nightmare.
Target’s CEO apologized for supporting an anti-LGBT candidate and said the company’s support for the community is unwavering. The company is a sponsor of the upcoming Out & Equal convention in Los Angeles and supports a number of Pride events.
David Ethridge is a local activist who believes in standing on principle when deciding where to shop: “LGBT Americans represent almost$800 billion in annual buying power and are a serious consumer force to be recognized and valued,” he said. “We have to vote with our dollars, because that’s the only language that a corporation speaks.”
Liz Cappon said she disagrees with the donations both companies made but is not boycotting.
“I can guarantee that there are tons of other stores that have done or are currently doing the same thing with candidates and PACs but maybe they just aren’t receiving the same attention right now,” she said.
She said some friends of hers have switched to Wal-Mart. That company’s CEI score is 40 percent.
“I would prefer to shop somewhere that treats their gay employees well,” she said.
“Target wants to sell me socks, and I want to buy socks from Target, but first I have to feel good about where my sock money is going,” Ethridge said.
Ethridge said it’s too early to know what long-term impact the reaction to Target’s donation will have.
Sainz held talks with Target that produced no immediate results. He said his talks with Best Buy continue.
“I think there’s a silver lining,” he said. “We, as a community, sent a message to corporations to factor in our issues.”
He said that there’s no way to measure the effect the boycott of Target has had, but thinks companies that care about public reaction will be more careful about their political donations in the future.
Thinking of boycotting? How easy would it be to boycott Target or Best Buy and stick to companies with high Equality Index ratings? We took a few products available at these stores and compared. Prices are current this week from the stores’ websites.
• LEVI STRAUSS
Levi’s not only has a 100 percent rating itself, the San Francisco-based company practically invented corporate equality. They were one of the first corporations to extend benefits equally to their LGBT employees and one of the first to market to the community.
J.C. Penney: $32.99-$49.99
Levi Outlet Store: $19.90-$128 (Not the same styles but the outlet store offered the widest selection.)
Closest Penney store to Oak Lawn: Valley View Mall. Penney is locally based and has a 95 percent rating
Closest Levi Outlet Store: Grapevine Mills. Company-owned with 100 percent rating.
Jeans alternatives: Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic. 100 percent rating. Closest stores to Oak Lawn: Banana Republic in West Village. Gap in NorthPark. Old Navy in Galleria. Only carry their own store brands.
• “GLEE” DVD
The first season of “Glee” (available Sept. 14)
“Glee” aired on Fox, owned by News Corp: unrated.
Best Buy: $37.99
Borders: $40.59 (Borders is at West Village and has a 100 percent rating)
Alternative: rent it at gay-owned TapeLenders
• CREST TOOTHPASTE, 4.2 oz. size
Crest is manufactured by Procter & Gamble, which has a 100 percent rating.
Kroger: $2.50 (Kroger has a 75 percent rating and has a store on Cedar Springs.)
• FRISKIES, 5.5 oz. can
Manufactured by Purina, which has a 75 percent rating.
Target: 40 cents/can
Walgreens: 50 cents/can (Walgreens has stores in Oak Lawn, Oak Cliff and throughout the city and has a 100 percent rating.)
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010