Lawsuit pits Target against gay-rights group

By Muriel Kane
Friday, March 25, 2011 20:43 EDT
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The retailing giant Target came under fire last year for its donations to run ads supporting an anti-gay rights candidate in Minnesota. Target insists that it is not anti-gay and has contributed to gay and lesbian organizations, but as recently as this month, concerns about last year’s incident caused Lady Gaga to cancel an exclusive deal for Target to sell a special deluxe edition of her upcoming album.

Given this background, it seems the last thing Target might want would be to stir up more trouble for itself. And yet now the firm is seeking a restraining order against a grassroots California group that has been lobbying for same-sex marriage outside eight of its San Diego-area stories.

The company says that customers have been complaining the lobbying makes them feel uncomfortable and that the activists have refused to leave even when told the company’s policy against solicitation. It insists that it is not singling out gay-rights supporters but has regularly acted against groups which impinge on its ability to provide a “distraction-free shopping experience”

“Target long ago established a solicitation policy at our stores nationwide,” the firm explained in a statement, “We do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented.”

During a hearing Friday at the San Diego County Superior Court, Target’s attorney argued that “The question is Target’s property right and its right to exclude.”

The lawyers for Canvass for a Cause argued in response that “sidewalks and areas outside stores such as Target have been considered by courts to be public domain for free speech.” They insisted that “Target is taking action because it does not agree with the group’s message about gay marriage.”

Canvass for a Cause, a progressive non-profit which was founded a year ago in reaction to California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, has taken on projects “ranging from marriage equality, DADT, to cannabis law reform.”

The judge is expected to issue a ruling next week. Canvass for a Cause has announted that it will not submit to a preliminary injunction if the decision goes against them — as most small groups do for lack of funds — but will take the case to trial if necessary.

Last year, Target became the focus of a boycott campaign after it was revealed to have donated $150,000 to a group which ran ads in Minnesota on behalf of unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Emmer, a strong social conservative and opponent of gay marriage, was particularly notorious for his support of a Christian rock band whose leader had called homosexuality “an abomination” and stated approvingly that “Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws.”

Target — which allegedly supported Emmer for his pro-business stance rather thanl his anti-gay positions — apologized at the time. According to ABC News, it also “revamped its political expenditure policy, mandating that proposed political donations must align with the company’s core values, not just their business interests, and be reviewed by internal committees that include a diversity of viewpoints.”

Now, however, those attempts to mend relations with the gay community appear likely to come undone.

Image courtesy of Canvass for a Cause by way of Wikimedia Commons.

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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