In 2010 Minneapolis-based Target Corporation donated $150,000 to the neoconservative MN Forward, which supported forthrightly antigay gubenatorial candidate, Republican, Tom Emmer. This was just a few years after Target donated $3,500 to support the campaign for California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, while only giving $750 toward groups opposing it. But perhaps the reason that the MN Forward donation ignited such a firestorm was because in January of 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision monumentally expanded the ability of corporations and unions to make political donations and the MN Forward donation marked what could be perceived as the first targeting (no pun intended) of a group after that decision. Therefore, the MN Forward donation was seen across the political spectrum as titanic corporate leverage over the average voter and whatever undesirable group may be out of favor at a given moment.
Happily, after a backlash that included a forceful boycott, Target has balanced things out by offering for purchase ten t-shirts on their retail website. Terms like ‘Harmony’, ‘Pride’ and even one designed by pop star Gwen Stefani with a cloud and rainbow saying ‘Love is Love’ reflect the current Pride season spirit. Moreover, $120,000 will be raised by this promotion for the gay rights-oriented Family Equality Council (FEC) based in Washington D.C. (Target has not taken a stand on the marriage amendment on this year’s ballot in Minnesota.)
Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder states “Target supports inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our business and has a long history of supporting the LGBT community through giving, volunteerism, and event sponsorship and participation. We are pleased to be able to bring our guests products they want while, in turn, helping support the LGBT community through the donation of 100 percent of the purchase price to the Family Equality Council. A team from Target’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally (LGBTA) Business Council and across the organization came together to bring this program to life.”
Target has a ten year history with the FEC, has been a supporter of Rainbow Families, and has sponsored the Midwest Family Equality Conference and other events including their annual Halloween Dance for which the retailer has provided volunteers, snacks, and sponsorships.
Mel Rexroad, Family Equality’s Midwest Region Senior Manager for the past two years, adds “we also partner with Target for Twin Cities Pride in the Family area to provide fun and games for families. Having a national sponsorship with Target was the next logical step and we are excited about the opportunities!”
Rexroad is a lesbian mom of five year old twins who moved to Minnesota specifically so her children could be around other same-sex headed families. She says she appreciates Target’s support for these families and is proud to have them as a partner. Before she was hired as Midwest Region Manager, she had volunteered for the organization for three years.
As for the boycott, its founder, Randi Reitan, is pleased about the evolution. She says “I think it is wonderful they contributed to Family Equality and that they are offering Pride merchandise. I wish the merchandise was offered in the stores and not just online. It would make a real statement if a person could see them actually in the stores.”
On the other hand, Chuck Darrell, Communications Director for the anti-marriage equality group Minnesota For Marriage has been publicly incensed. I asked him the following questions:
1. Regarding Target’s online sale of Pride merchandise: doesn’t a private company have the right to pursue the markets they want to?
2. It’s quite clear that divorce and economic adversity are far more detrimental to traditional families than a comparatively tiny number of families headed by same sex couples. So why does your group have such a lopsided concern about same sex marriage?
3. To what degree does the book of Revelations influence your view on same-sex marriage?
4. You have recently expressed pleasure that your group is gaining support in local Muslim communities. What is your view about the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in Muslim countries?
Darrell would not directly answer my questions but emailed that I should simply “see the link for comments you can use regarding Target”, supposedly meaning Minnesota For Marriage’s website.