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 refuses to make nice with the gays

Expect to see more protests like the one above in West Hollywood.

Just hours after we posted this story from the Associated Press about conservatives pressuring Target not to make a donation in support of LGBT equality, the Human Rights Campaign announced Monday afternoon that the company has decided it will take “no corrective actions to repair the harm that it caused by contributing $150,000 to an organization supporting a vehemently anti-gay candidate closely associated with a Christian rock band that advocates death and violence to gay people.”

In a press release, HRC said the company’s decision came after two weeks of discussions and two tentative agreements.

“All fair-minded Americans will now rightly question Target’s commitment to equality. If their initial contribution was a slap in the face, their refusal to make it right is a punch in the gut and that’s not something that we will soon forget,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “However, with full marriage equality hanging in the balance in Minnesota, regardless of Target, it’s important that we as a community send a message that we will work tirelessly to elect pro-equality candidates.”

HRC goes on to say that it will devote $150,000 of its own resources to help elect pro-equality candidates in Minnesota. HRC is still awaiting a response from Best Buy, which also contributed money to MN Forward, the group supporting anti-gay Republican Tim Emmer in the governor’s race.

“Target and Best Buy have — and no doubt will continue to have — model employment policies for LGBT people. We will continue to support those efforts. But before they can regain that exalted status among their consumers, they need to make things right in Minnesota,” said Solmonese. “The nation’s LGBT community has shown these two companies enormous customer loyalty. Now it’s time for that faithfulness to be returned.”

Going back to the AP story, it sounds like Target was ultimately more faithful to the almighty dollar:

Conservatives are watching to see whether Target bends to the pressure, said Kelly O’Keefe, a brand expert at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

“They’re likely to raise the ire of a different constituency of customers and get themselves in a never-ending cycle of alienating people,” he said. “A better thing is for them to swear off any future investment in elections.”

The full HRC press release is after the jump.

UPDATE: For your further viewing pleasure, check out this inspiring in-store flash mob protest:

—  John Wright