August 19, 2010 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Boycott takes aim at Target stores

Target enacted new political giving policies following controversy over donations during the 2010 election (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key).

Gay shoppers boycotting Target for supporting an anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate have little reason to rethink their stance as the company, the nation’s second largest retailer behind Wal-Mart, has done little in response.

Target’s negotiations with the Human Rights Campaign ended abruptly this week with the gay civil rights group releasing a statement saying Target would “take no corrective actions to repair the harm that it caused” through its political donation.

Based in Minnesota, Target has been pressured for three weeks by LGBT activists to make amends after giving $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that has run ads supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. A straight father of seven, Emmer is against same-sex marriage and supports constitutional amendments that outlaw it.

MoveOn.org, a group of organizations that works to bring “real Americans back onto the political process,” is spearheading the Target boycott.

MoveOn.org says its members object to Target “trying to buy elections” under the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections can’t be limited under the First Amendment. To counter Target’s donation, MoveOn.org is seeking $150,000 to “fight back” and “send an unmistakable message that Americans won’t stand for corporations throwing their weight around in our elections.”

More than 250,000 signatures have been collected from people pledging not to shop at Target again until the company promises to stop making political donations, MoveOn.org says. Protestors have reportedly appeared at 1,100 Target stores across the country.

HRC took no official stance on the boycott but was in negotiations with Target, encouraging the company to make a similar donation to an LGBT-supportive candidate in Minnesota.

“We were in talks with ways they could make it right … and were close to some sort of agreement, but finally they backed away from the table and refused to give an explanation about why they would talk no further,” said Michael Cole, an HRC spokesperson.

“I don’t know that we’ve reached out to them in the last few days, but their final word to us was, ‘No, we will not be giving anything to them to make it right and this is the end of the conversation.’”

In a statement, Target told the Blade that a decision was made to wait before taking action on the matter.

“Given the current political and emotionally charged environment, we have concluded that it is best to wait before taking further external action regarding our MN Forward contribution,” said Jessica Carlson, a Target spokesperson, in an e-mail.

“We believe that it is impossible to avoid turning any further actions into a political issue and will use the benefit of time to make thoughtful, careful decisions on how best to move forward. We remain committed to the GLBT community and will continue to seek thoughtful ways to demonstrate the strong support for inclusiveness that we have held throughout our history.”

While no D.C. gay groups have taken any lead role in the boycott, local LGBT people have expressed anger about the situation and joined the boycott.

Geri Hughes, a Washington transgender activist, said she shopped regularly at the Target stores in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood and Virginia’s Potomac Yards shopping center, but won’t now.

“Until this is resolved, I’ll tell you this,” she said. “I’m not gonna spend any money there. And if it doesn’t make the paper, I’ll never shop there again.”

The news of Target’s donation supporting an anti-gay candidate came as a shock to many gays who recognized Target for its perfect score on HRC’s most recent Corporate Equality Index, which grades corporations on their approaches toward LGBT-related workplace matters. Target also has given money to the Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays in Twin Cities and participated in Minnesota Pride events.

Joel Lawson, a gay Washingtonian with his own public relations business, said the controversy reminded him of disputes in the 90s with United Airlines and American Online. Those incidents involved resistance to enacting domestic partner benefits and a service member’s inadvertent outing.

“They think, ‘Oh, we’re fine. This is a misunderstanding. It will resolve itself in a short matter of time,’” he said. “And that’s just not the case. The hurt is magnified and even more startling, more newsworthy and more difficult to resolve. … Unless they acknowledge the hurt and injury, it will only linger.”

Lawson said he’s confident, though, Target will eventually make right on the matter.

“It’s a very bad moment for a very good company with very good LGBT policies,” he said.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

22 Comments
  • Unbelievable!!! in this day & age, to have so much bigotry and ignorance amongst our politicians. Oh well, I don’t approve of his having SEVEN CHILDREN..to me no couple should have more than 2!!! but at least they can do it!!! I will definitely boycott my local Target store for this, which is a shame as it’s only 5 mins. from where I live!! But boycott I will, along with family and friends!!! Get real, Target!!!!! we are not in the middle ages anymore…at least I don’t think so!!!

    • Better.Leadership

      Go ahead and boycott. So if you don’t like what they did. But we are free to go were we want and I am shopping at Target. Why? Because I think it is funny that we all cry that we should be able to do what we want but when someone or some group believes different we act stupid and mean forcing them to believe what we believe. Target gave money to a group that supports business and they gave it to the candidate. So don’t vote for that person when it comes to elections. Also anyone should be able to donate how much they want to one candidate. Since we live in a place were we have the freedom to do what we want then any group can give what they want. If you don’t like it don’t vote for that person.

    • So what’s the fuss? Well, for intensely partisan MoveOn and its bullying “gay rights” buddies, Emmer’s stance on gay marriage – recall, please, one shared by most Americans — makes him a candidate sprouting tail and horns. So much for presumptuousness.

      Ironically, “gay rights” advocates would deny others free speech rights. They paint conservative candidate, conservative lawyer Emmer (who is not only against higher taxes, but also more restrictive gun controls) as a homophobic, cartoon-like character. Truth is not the aim; the campaign is solely to deride and destruct.

      They fling at Emmer all sorts of weird epithets, inviting slander and libel. These include the term “homophobic” which, like “racist,” is tossed capriciously, irresponsibly nowadays, by the crafty, take-no-prisoners Left, out to silence, not to enlighten. Being a public figure, Emmer has little to no defense against such perverse personal attacks under the well-established case law in New York Times v. Sullivan although malice in this case is a given.

  • I too have joined the boycott. HRC needs to do publicly call for the same–enough of the pacificist role they seem to be taking now. Once talks broke down, they should’ve issued the boycott call. Strange that MoveOn.org has taken more of a lead on this for other reasons. Maybe I should rethink my annual contribution to HRC, or at least split it with MoveOn. As for Target, they’ve lost my approximately $250 a month until they publicly retract the donation, or issue another of an equal amount to the pro-equality candidate in the MN governor race, strangely enough, who happens to be an heir to the company’s founder.

    • Better.Leadership

      They gave money to a group that supports businesses. Seems to me we all want everyone to be like us rather than accepting their ideas as well. My lifestyle should in no way be part of a campaign or political agenda. Target gives back to the community more than any other large store to great causes. Like schools and community activities. Are we going to make a big deal out of $150,000 when they give millions to other great causes? Seems to me we are cutting off our own noses to spite our face.

  • There are lots of non-GLBT people out there boycotting Target–we’re GLBT supporters–don’t forget us when you say “Gay Shoppers Boycotting Target…” ;)

  • Today, at “our” Target in Willowbrook, IL I asked the cashier if she knew that the CEO gave a donation to a political campaign. She did not. I asked for the manager. An asst. manager came. She had no clue, either. Finally two store managers were waiting for me and they said that they were aware and that they were told to inform their employees on a “need to know” basis! I said that we had been silently boycotting for a couple weeks and showed them our receipt. They said they would pass on the information( that I, the customer, was opposed to this practice of buying elections), like they were instructed to do from higher up the Target chain. Lots of ignorance, from the top to the bottom.

  • The same thing happened when I returned merchandise in protest to my local Target. The clerk asked why I was returning it. When I told her about the contribution, she said “What are you talking about? I didn’t know that.” The other clerk on the service desk told her they were NOT to ask customers the reason for returns until further notice. The best part was, the woman in line behind me was making a return in protest as well and made sure they all knew it! There were more carts than usual of returned merchandise behind the desk.

  • To the “boycotter” who was shopping at Target… I see you’ve got no willpower (or don’t understand what a boycott is). If you walked out with a receipt, then you’re not boycotting Target. As for me, I’m not setting foot in another Target parking lot. My response from Target was pathetic…

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts about Target’s political contributions and the voting records of certain candidates and elected officials.

    Many of our guests make Target a part of their life and that’s why we appreciate hearing your comments.

    Although I can’t provide the personalized reply I know you’d like to receive, I encourage you to visit our Corporate web site, to find statements and information about Target’s Civic activity and political contributions. Here’s the link: http://pressroom.target.com/pr/news/civic/default.aspx

    I understand the disappointment and frustration that you’ve shared with me, so I’ll be sure to share your comments with our executives.

    Sincerely,
    Alex
    Target Guest Relations
    (800) 440-0680

  • I contacted Target about this policy of influence peddling and that I would no longer be shopping at their store and got a similar boilerplate canned excuse from a different corporate flack. I responded to that flack that their pathetic excuse of a reason to donate to a politician with a known history of discrimination made them an unacceptable entity for my patronage. I am retired. There’s a Target right across the street from my apartment building and their prices are better than others in the area for many household items. Price and convenience are no longer attractive to me.

  • Its a great day when people band together for a cause that is worth fighting against…Me, I think Ive been in a Target store twice..why? Ive always thought it to be nothing but a glorified Walmart and way too much stuff just piled over everything. However I have friends that do shop there, and will no longer patronize a place that supports foul and insensitive people especially these days. Some may think its a little petty, but you have to take a stand at every corner of wrong-doing and stomp it out with both boots.

  • Wow! Target is dead with all the people boycotting them. But does anyone think they will change from donating to politicians they think will support business? Companies can’t win actually because no matter what they do, they can’t please everyone.

  • Oh good grief. Really? Anyone who thinks that a call for an LGBT boycott against Target will have any real impact on the company’s business doesn’t know much about the effectiveness of such activities in the past. Like many gay voters ourselves, gay issues are not the only deciding factor in our support for candidates — same with businesses. Get real.

    • I think this boycott is important. “Free speech is the privilege of the dead, said Mark Twain.” The point is not to hurt Target financially per se, but to let Target and other corporations know that if they elect to use the new rights that our idiot courts have given them, there will be a cost. It is important that the boycott goes on and Target pays a heavy PR price for their unfortunate an uninformed choice. Let every corporation think twice about it.

  • There are alot of gay people in the world! It does make a difference when 250,000 people band together to say “no. I wont be giving my money to this business”. As far as donations go large corporations not trying to step on any toes can always give to non-partisan causes or avoid donating. Five minutes with Google could have saved Target

  • The article fails to mention that the MN candidate is not only against gay marriage but has ties to groups that advocate for the execution of gays!

  • “More than 250,000 signatures have been collected from people pledging not to shop at Target again” – anyone have an idea on where/how we can sign?

  • To Hell with their HRC Corporate Rating. THAT does not affect legislation. For large corporations to make huge political contributions against our interests, but to think of themselves as good because they employ gays to work For Them, profiting from the efforts of gays, is like plantation owners telling the slave to come in to serve him in the big house, so that He may profit and keep control and power, but to then go back outside of the hot kitchen to eat the leftovers. This is not equality. This is the action of Target. They make it easy to work For them, but then take those proceeds to use against us. Marriott does this too.

    Also, Lawson predicts that target will “eventually” make right on the matter. But it is not OK for Target to make political contributions against us, and to wait until After the elections to make some other sort of repairations. It will be too late then.

    This happened in California, and in Massachusetts.

  • I boycotted macy too,not just target

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