August 26, 2010 | by Kevin Naff
Boycott politicians, not Target

The news that Target donated $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that supports Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer (who happens to oppose marriage equality), has triggered investor protests, extensive national media coverage and demonstrations at stores. Everyone loves a boycott!

One group even protested inside a Target store and announced over a loud speaker, “When shopping at Target know that your money is fueling hate and discrimination. Today’s bigot special: two-ply toilet tissue, because when you’re full of shit like Target is, you need something to wipe the shame with.”

Target is, well, an obvious target for such crude tactics, given that gay shoppers have embraced the trendy retailer over down-market rival Walmart. How could Target support “bigotry” after we bought all those iPods, stainless steel coffee makers and fabulous faux fur throws?

The answer, of course, is that Target isn’t funding bigotry. In fact, HRC has lauded the company’s “model employment policies.” The donation was made to support a candidate who pledged to lower corporate taxes in Minnesota. The fact that Emmer opposes marriage equality was incidental and puts him in good company. Most Democrats, including President Obama and Vice President Biden, also oppose same-sex marriage.

Locally, you’d be hard-pressed to find a prominent Maryland or Virginia Democrat who supports marriage equality. But that doesn’t stop our lobbyists from working hard to elect them. And re-elect them.

Just last week, Equality Maryland announced that Gov. Martin O’Malley, who stubbornly stands by his outdated civil unions position, will be the featured speaker at its annual October fundraiser. This is a prime example of why things never change: LGBT Democrats line up like sheep each October before an election and hand their money and votes to politicians who never deliver on their promises to us. In four years as governor, O’Malley has claimed to support civil unions but never done anything to advance them.

The only criteria needed to win the support of most LGBT state lobbyist groups like Equality Maryland is a pledge to be marginally better than the Republican. And so Democrats like O’Malley (and Obama) aren’t targeted with protests and boycotts, but rewarded with campaign cash and standing ovations.

Meanwhile, misguided gay activists are invading Target stores to demand their equality. Even HRC got in on the act, holding negotiations with Target about making an equivalent $150,000 donation to a pro-LGBT organization, reportedly to OutFront Minnesota or Project 515, two state LGBT groups. Those talks broke down and the donation wasn’t made, prompting HRC to make its own $150,000 donation to pro-equality candidates.

It’s an odd paradox: Why are we so quick to jump on a corporate boycott — even one targeting a high-profile gay-friendly business — yet when it comes to politicians, our advocates are just as quick to turn the other cheek?

If the community at large could muster the indignation it has discovered for Target and direct it at some of the politicians who have broken their promises, we could break out of the current logjam in Congress and finally advance some of the long-stalled bills that now appear doomed.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

27 Comments
  • Boycott Target. Don’t self hate.

  • The HRC was so slow in responding to the Target donation that MoveOn.org gets the credit for the boycott. I don’t care what the elites (corporations, politicians, or gay organizations that are out-of-touch with the community) say I should do. No Target for me.

  • No, you are wrong – Target Corporation is funding bigotry – and doing so deliberately as Target top Executives have done for years. The lie that they are only funding MN Forward and their “pro-business” agenda is lazy at best – though clearly you are stupid enough to fall for it. Is your need for cheaply made goods from China that great?

    Some of Target’s top Executives, including the CEO, have given to rabidly anti-gay candidates for years – and gosh, surprise, golly – the very first donation Target makes as a corporation is to – A RABIDLY ANTI-GAY CANDIDATE. And what exactly is “pro-business” in Minnesota – are the other candidates threatening to claim eminent domain and take-over Target – WHAT IS EMMER OFFERING AS A CANDIDATE THAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS FOR TARGET’S CUSTOMERS? Customers who they claim to have “unwavering” support for – perhaps someone at Target should purchase a dictionary.

    Just because Target will take our money – does not make them gay-friendly.

  • RIGHT!!!!!!!!! FOLKS PLEASE BOYCOTT TARGET….. AND THE POLITICIAN. COZ BOTH ARE THE SAME!!

  • The Target boycott is not just about efforts to ban same-sex marriage. Vehemently anti-gay candidate Emmer is also closely associated with a Christian rock band that advocates death and violence to gay people.

  • Why does it have to be “either/or”? Target needs to be held accountable; so do politicians of any political stripe who make their careers on espousing non-equality. And, by the way, even HRC (which of late has not exactly been known for its cutting edge positions) is rescinding its high rating of Target Corporation.

  • I have supported target for over 10 years. It disturbs me that Target could be using profits that they have made off gays to discriminate against them. If the Washington Blade took the time to investigate, they would discover that even the CEO of Target is against gays and makes donations to anti-gay groups. Target upper level management is being replaced by Anti-Gay agenda people.Boycott Target..

  • You are dead wrong. Target has taken my money and used it to fund the campaign of a hateful Tom Emmer, who will in turn use that money against me. Pardon me for not funding my own demise….

  • Push for more? YES! "Boycott" an important election? NO!

    Maryland really has two choices for governor –Robert Ehrlich or Martin O’Malley. Ehrlich vetoed medical decision making. He would strip us of any relationship protections. Yes, O’Malley needs to do more. No, he should not talk about civil unions anymore since they have no traction in MD and we have a majority in support of full marriage equality. BUT he supports gender identity protections and he has pledge to sign the marriage bill. Should we push more? ABSOLUTELY! But we should also acknowledge the real differences between the candidates and do what we can to advance our issues…including making sure we have a governor who will sign the bills we are working so hard to pass.

  • J. Random Citizen

    Emmer is running for office and Target’s corporate HQ are both where I live, so I care a bit about this issue. I will have no trouble staying away from Target stores until after the elections — not because Target is (only slightly indiredctly) supporting Emmer, but because it is a corporation venturing into politics. I want Target to serve as a warning to all other corporations: if you take ANY side in a political race, your customers might take an interest, stick your head in a bucket of liquid nitrogen and wander off.

    Despite what the Supreme Court says, I think there is a world of difference between individuals and corporations. For instance, I fully support your (and my!) right to discriminate widely when picking someone to share a bed with — gender preference, gender, eye color, skin color, body mass index, religion, education, choice of stimulants/depressants, cute smile, whatever — be as FUSSY as YOU WANT. Corporations and governments don’t get as much leeway in my world.

    So, Target Corporation, enjoy your time as a poster child. Maybe next time you’ll have second thoughts FIRST.

  • The situation in Minnesota is very unique. When Target made the donation, we were just days from our primary. All three Democratic candidates on the ballot fully supported marriage equality. The Republicans had already united behind Tom Emmer who had spent his years in the legislature doing all he could to deny our gay citizens their rights. He authored a bill to change our state constitution. He wanted language changed from “parents” to “mother and father” in another bill. This is the candidate Target decided to give their first corporate donation to under the new laws. It was also rumored that is was only the first donation Target would make to MN Forward. Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s CEO, has given the max to people like Michele Bachmann over the years and I am sure he made the decision to give to Emmer. As a mom with a gay son, I can’t bring myself to shop at a store that will take my money and then hand it over to the likes of Tom Emmer. If the Mark Dayton, the Democrat, wins in November we have a real hope that Minnesota will be the next state to embrace marriage equality. If Tom Emmer wins, not only is that hope dashed … but any gay friendly legislation will also be vetoed. There has never been a more clear decision for me …. my son’s equality is truly on the line. I will boycott Target until Gregg Steinhafel is no longer the CEO.

  • O’Malley actually stated recently that he now supports same-sex marriage.

  • You should fact check better. HRC removed Target from their index days ago. Before you posted this article. It’s been all over the news.

  • Thank you. THANK YOU! for taking Equality Maryland to task for elevating a candidate who isn’t meeting our needs. Unfortunately that got buried under the Target hullabaloo. We need publications like the Blade to question organization’s endorsements — especially as we end this historic Congress with so little to show for it.

  • Ryan, O’Malley never said he supports same-sex marriage. He merely clarified a position that was erroneously presented to the press. Originally, he said he would sign a marriage bill if presented to him. Then a spokesman said he would “carefully consider” such a bill. Under pressure from outraged activists, he reverted back to his original position. That said, agreeing to sign a bill that has yet to make it out of a Senate Committee is different from saying he supports same-sex marriage. That he hasn’t enunciated yet. His official position remains that he supports civil unions.

  • You miss the point. It’s not just that Target is donating to some right-wing anti-gay dope. The larger problem is that Target’s management thinks it is perfectly okay to pump gigantic amounts of money into politics in an effort to influence elections. When companies figure out that consumers–and eventually, investors–are going to punish them for helping to corrupt the political system, maybe they’ll stop doing it.

  • Quote from You: “The fact that Emmer opposes marriage equality was incidental and puts him in good company.”

    Next, you’ll try to tell us that Jack the Ripper’s carving knives were incidental to Jack’s avocation, and that the nearly 75,000 people signing onto the Target Boycott Page at Facebook have completely misunderstood the Target situation.

  • Kevin – I disagree with you. Due to the Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision allowing corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, other corporations will most certainly repeat what we see with Target. With the Court’s unbelievable decision, the fulcrum of democracy has most decidedly moved to the right. On a separate matter, this is another consequence of Ken Mehlman’s traitorous 2004 anti-gay campaign resulting it the reelection of Bush (the dumber).

    Corporations will now be able to finance their candidates of choice with untold sums of money virtually guaranteeing elections. The only way that this unbelievable power can be checked is if these donations are transparent and if interest groups can hold these corporations accountable by boycotts.

  • Misguided Target and Mr. Naff need a reality check on the consequences and values of looking the other way when anyone supports a candidate who has a legacy of discrimination and worse for any oppressed minority- it’s a deal breaker.

  • Target is, well, an obvious target for such crude tactics, given that gay shoppers have embraced the trendy retailer over down-market rival Walmart. How could Target support “bigotry” after we bought all those iPods, stainless steel coffee makers and fabulous faux fur throws?

    The answer, of course, is that Target isn’t funding bigotry. In fact, HRC has lauded the company’s “model employment policies.” The donation was made to support a candidate who pledged to lower corporate taxes in Minnesota. The fact that Emmer opposes marriage equality was incidental and puts him in good company. Most Democrats, including President Obama and Vice President Biden, also oppose same-sex marriage.

    That Naff could write BS like this must mean that he thinks the gay community is made up of ignorant twits. Emmer gets a pass because Obama turns out to be an asshole? Naff should find a new occupation. Shoveling dog do might be within his competence.

    • Is the personal attack against Kevin really necessary? It this lack of civility and courtesy in the gay community that is so destructive. I know, now I become your hate target.

  • This Op/Ed piece is truly a new low for the Blade as Tom Emmer isn’t just “opposed” to Gay marriage, but supports Christian artists calling for the death penalty for homosexuality. Boycott Target and make your politicians serve you. Dollars are votes in this country. Kevin Naff needs to snap out of Gay denial and stop rationalizing homophobia in whatever arena it occurs.

  • According to Wikipedia, “On September 7, 2010, Chick-fil-A will be a sponsor of a golf tournament benefiting Cincinnati’s Citizens for Community Values, a group whose website compares homosexuality with bestiality, incest, rape and pedophilia.” This company, billed as the second largest chicken restaurant chain next to KFC, has stores in the Washington Metro area, and deserves some attention along with Target and Best Buy. As much as I might like their product, I’m not spending any money that they might use against me.

  • A lot of people are angry with Target over their donation. Here is a suggestion on what Target can do to end the boycott http://bit.ly/c3sYgU

  • Yikes!! I agree. The reason Target had the money to donate is because of ALL of it’s customers. I don’t like the idea that a business is donating money to any politician. I truly cannot understaind why people are so opposed to same sex marriage. If your neighbors down the street are two men or two women living together and raising their families like everyone else – what possible effect does that have on you.

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