HRC still calling on Target to ‘Make it right’

Target Retail StoreA reader wrote to me last week and said that he and his boyfriend are continuing to boycott Target, and he requested an update.

I contacted Paul Guequierre, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, who said the organization is still calling on Target to “Make it right.”

At issue was Target’s $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a political action committee supporting the candidacy of anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Guequierre said HRC has staff in Minnesota working for the Mark Dayton campaign. Dayton is the Democrat opposing Emmer, a Republican.

“Minnesota could be the next state to have marriage equality,” Guequierre said.

But he said that will only happen with Dayton as governor. Currently, Dayton is ahead in the polls.

Target’s parent company was originally called Dayton-Hudson and candidate Dayton, whom Target opposes, comes from the store’s founding family.

Guequierre said if Dayton wins, “Target will have to ask themselves if it was worth it. Their reputation within the community has changed.”

Personally, since being asked to leave a local Target for asking questions while trying to cover this story, I’ve stayed away and am unlikely to go back. I don’t shop where the LGBT community is not welcome, but I really avoid stores where I’ve been thrown out. (The offensive question: Has the LGBT boycott of Target affected your store at all?)

Target once received a perfect score of 100 percent in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. This year, the company had 15 points deducted because of the political contribution and its refusal to make it right.

Best Buy also made a large donation to MN Forward and has not made it right either.

But Guequierre said HRC has never called for a boycott.

“Both companies treat their LGBT employees right,” he said.

So there is no HRC-sanctioned boycott, but many members of the LGBT community have decided to find other places to shop.

—  David Taffet

Nutjob candidates in other states make Texas politics seem downright boring this year

New York gubernatorial candidate Kristin Davis

Texas has produced its share of crackpot politicians over the years. But compared to what’s going on across the country, the Lone Star State seems downright boring in 2010.

While Gov. Rick Perry said the Arizona anti-immigration law is not right for Texas, his counterpart in Arizona claimed the law is necessary because of decapitated bodies found in the desert. Jan Brewer, running for re-election as governor of Arizona, has not been able to produce evidence to back up her claim.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul, who’s running for the Senate in Kentucky, said he thinks restaurants should have the right to refuse service based on race. Not that he’d do that if he owned a restaurant, but they should have that right.

Sharron Angle, who’s running for Senate in Nevada, thinks alcohol should be illegal. Last time we looked, Las Vegas was in Nevada.

And after being criticized last week for running an ad showing a map of Mexico with stock photos of Latinos and talking about a stronger immigration law, Angle said she was talking about immigration from Canada and didn’t know if the people in the ad were Mexican. She’s ahead in the polls.

—  David Taffet

Shaking off those nasty midterm blues

It’s tempting to echo the ‘throw them out’ refrain, but compare the candidates and the political parties carefully, then go out and make your voice heard by voting

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White

I suspect a lot of people right now are experiencing the same kind of feelings my grandfather used to have around election time: One of his favorite phrases was, “Throw the bastards out.”

Though it may make for a colorful epithet, it was not the way he voted. He once told me that if his hand ever touched the lever on the voting machine marked “Republican,” it would burn his fingers.

Though he was a feisty and almost illiterate blacksmith from Tennessee, he followed politics and he was a Roosevelt Democrat through-and-through.

That brings me back to the here and now and the current election, when a lot of new voters are frustrated by what they perceive as the lack of change since the last election.

I will admit I, too, am frustrated. I want things to change faster and to do that I agree that we need to throw a few folks out.

But I am selective in my tossing. I know that midterms are every bit as important as the years when the presidency is in play, and though they are not nearly as sexy, they deserve our attention.

I get a lot of questions from friends and acquaintances this time of year as well, and because of that I prepared a short list of “talking points,” just to remind myself — and them — what is at stake.

• “How come things haven’t changed?”

They have, and they can continue to change if we concentrate on keeping and increasing the Democratic majority in Congress.

For example, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed during the last congressional session and signed into law by President Obama. Most importantly, the bill included crimes motivated by the victims “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”

That is a big step. Additionally, the president signed a bill giving benefits to same-sex spouses of federal employees.

• “Why should I bother to vote for local offices like judges?”

National politics is sexy, but the real actions that affect your life happen at the local level.

For example District Judge Ernest White presided over the gay-bashing trial of Bobby Singleton. He was one of two men who beat and disfigured Jimmie Dean in 2008 here in Oak Lawn.

Singleton was sentenced to 75 years in prison. Though the jury handed down the sentence, the judge has an influence over the trial.

Wouldn’t you want a sympathetic judge on the bench if you were the victim?

• “Are there any LGBT people running for local office?”

You betcha! Gary Fitsimmons, Dallas County district clerk, is seeking re-election. Not only has he been an outstanding public official for all of the county, his office was first in the county to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policies. Fitzsimmons recently added gender identity to the policy as well.

• “Why is Bill White a better choice than Rick Perry?”

Here is a quote from Gov. Perry: “Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

He was addressing a group about jobs creation, but his subtext is clear: “If LGBT people don’t like it here, leave.”

Additionally, who walked with us down Cedar Springs for the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, Bill White or Rick Perry? Bill White.

• “What about ENDA, DOMA and DADT?”

It’s been only two years since the landslide victory for Democratic lawmakers; it took eight years of the disastrous Bush administration policies and six years with the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress to get us where we are today.

Yes, I am impatient as well, but we need to keep Democratic control over the Congress and elect even more progressive candidates to move the vital issues forward.

• “Both parties are the same; it’s all politics anyway.”

Take a look at the state party platforms and say that again.

The Republican platform is filled with vehement language demonizing LGBT Texans, like this plum: “We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. … Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should ‘family’ be redefined to include homosexual couples.”
It is tempting to use my grandfather’s line, and just throw up my hands and say, “Throw all the bastards out.”

But once I get over my immediate frustration and look at the reality of where we are and where we have come from, I know things are getting better for LGBT folk in this country and this state.

If we fail to show up at the polls and support our allies, we will only hurt ourselves. It wouldn’t take much to turn back the clock, and rest assured the candidates who stand against us want to do just that.

Another bit of wisdom I gleaned from my grandfather was this: “If you are feeling down in the mouth, it’s probably because you’ve been standing around with it open. Now shut your trap and get off your rump and go out and do something!”

The best cure for the midterm blues is doing something — like voting!

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Bill White declines interview with Dallas Voice prior to his upcoming appearance at gay Pride

Bill White was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign in March.

Dallas Voice has had a standing interview request in with Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White’s campaign for months. After Stonewall Democrats of Dallas announced this week that White will be marching in the upcoming gay Pride parade, we figured it would be a perfect opportunity to reiterate our request. We received a reply e-mail from White spokeswoman Katy Bacon on Wednesday night:

“Unfortunately we’re not going to be able to make it work, John, I am sorry,” Bacon wrote.

This is disappointing but hardly surprising. For one thing, we’re guessing White is extremely busy right now and closely managing his priorities. But White has also been extremely reluctant to discuss LGBT issues publicly or in detail since he emerged as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination almost a year ago. His obvious concern is that Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has a long history of anti-gay politicking, would try to use whatever statements he makes to rile up conservative voters. We’ll continue to seek an interview with White right up until Election Day, but for now you can read previous stories about him by going here, here and here.

—  John Wright

How is Target’s donation being used

MN Forward is the group to which Target and Best Buy directed a combined total of $250,000. The organization is a political action committee supporting a candidate with pro-business positions.

Here’s the ad they released this week to support pro-business and anti-gay Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

In the ad, they refer to Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate Mark Dayton, claiming he supports taxing e-mail. Dayton is a former Democratic Minnesota senator. While in Congress, he addressed a proposal at the time to levy a tax on e-mail and said he would not support it. His mention of the issue on the floor of the Senate is what MN Forward calls support.

Emmer’s anti-LGBT positions are not addressed in the ad, but that was never MN Forward’s purpose. Their mission, as stated on their website is:

MN Forward is focused on issues related to creating jobs and economic opportunity. That includes tax reform, spending reform, and ensuring our children receive a world-class education.

After being criticized for only supporting Republicans, the PAC steered some money to some Democrats. An example is Rep. Gene Pelowski. On their website they wrote:

Rep. Pelowski broke ranks with his party and voted against a $1 billion tax increase in 2009 and against a veto override attempt on the same bill. That year he had the highest ranking on the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce scorecard of any DFL House member.

So in being non-partisan, they chose Democrats who “broke ranks” with Democrats.

—  David Taffet

Gay rights group: Target won’t offer olive branch

STEVE KARNOWSKI  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. has decided against giving money to gay-friendly causes to quiet the uproar over a $150,000 donation that helped support a Minnesota governor candidate who opposes gay marriage, a national gay rights group said Monday, Aug. 16.

In response, the Human Rights Campaign said it will contribute the same amount of its own money to political candidates in Minnesota who support gay marriage, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

A Target spokeswoman did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Target has been under pressure for three weeks for contributing $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that has run ads supporting Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Fred Sainz, an HRC spokesman, said Target and his group had reached two tentative agreements over the last couple weeks for the discount retail giant to give money to various
gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender causes in Minnesota.

“Then when we were ready to pull the trigger, literally at the 11th hour on two occasions, they pulled back and said they were not ready to proceed,” Sainz said. “They said no deal. They said it was over.”

Target didn’t say why, he said.

“They were very diplomatic. They simply said they were going to take no corrective action,” he said.

Minneapolis-based Target has cultivated a good relationship with the gay community and its image as an inclusive employer. The company has been a sponsor of the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. On Aug. 5, CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote employees to say he was sorry for the hurt feelings over the donation, which he said was motivated by Emmer’s stance on business issues, not social issues.

Liberal groups reacted to news of Target’s donation angrily. Their calls for a boycott and several scattered protests outside Target stores highlighted the risks companies face if they take advantage of their new freedom under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows them to spend company funds directly on political campaigns.

A Boycott Target page on Facebook had over 62,000 fans as of Monday. But conservatives also threatened a backlash from the right, and an anti-boycott page on Facebook had over 17,500 fans as of Monday.

Sainz said the HRC has not decided how it will allocate the $150,000 it plans to spend on Minnesota campaigns.

“But at the top of our agenda is the next governor of Minnesota will hopefully be in a position to sign a quality-of-marriage bill,” Sainz said. “Obviously, that is a priority for our community and having a Legislature that will pass that bill is equally important.”

—  John Wright

Target CEO apologizes. Is it enough?

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized Thursday in a letter to employees for the company’s $150,000 contribution to MN Forward, a business group that is backing anti-gay gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

The Associated Press reports that Steinhafel said he was “genuinely sorry” and that the company will set up a review process for future political donations:

“While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry,” Steinhafel wrote.

He added, “The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our unique culture and our success as a company, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests.”

If you are among those boycotting Target over the contribution, is this enough for you to call it off?

—  John Wright