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 Martin O’Malley, who stubbornly stands by his outdated civil unions position, will be the featured speaker at its annual October fundraiser.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.