Anti-gay donation may dampen Target's welcome in San Francisco
by Matt Baume
Attempts to open two Target stores in San Francisco may have hit a roadblock in the form of the company's support for an anti-gay politician.
Target gave $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, an independent expenditure committee backing Republican Tom Emmer for Minnesota governor. Emmer, a state representative, authored a proposed constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, and has promoted the work of a religious rock band whose frontman described countries that execute LGBTs as "moral."
Until now, Target has enjoyed a favorable reputation among LGBTs. The company offers domestic partner benefits, sponsors Twin Cities Pride and the Out and Equal Workplace Summit, and has worked with gay designers including Zac Posen, Jean Paul Gaultier, and the late Alexander McQueen.
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel defended the donation as a business decision, citing Minnesota Forward's focus on job creation. The IEC also advocates for corporate tax cuts.
In response, the Human Rights Campaign, which had previously given Target a score of 100 percent on its Corporate Equality Index, placed a letter in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, asking the company to make an equivalent donation to a group supporting equality. In the last week, over 75,000 supporters have signed the letter online, HRC press secretary Michael Cole told the Bay Area Reporter .
Mario Guerrero, Equality California's government affairs director, issued a similar statement. "If Target wants to make this right, they should make an equal donation to pro-equality candidate(s)," he wrote.
A marriage equality bill may reach the Minnesota governor's desk in the next year. "We have strong majorities in the House and Senate," said Adam Robbins, a coordinator with OutFront Minnesota. His organization supports Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D) for governor in next week's primary. So far, every candidate but Emmer has voiced support for equality.
Target hopes to open two stores in San Francisco in 2011: one in the former Mervyn's department store at Geary and Masonic, and another in the Metreon.
"They can't segregate what they do in San Francisco from what they do in other states," said District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district abuts the former Mervyn's.
Constituents have approached Mirkarimi with concerns over Target's donation.
"If they want to come to San Francisco, the epicenter of the LGBT rights movement, they should be very sensitive about their leaning toward right-wing candidates," Mirkarimi told the B.A.R. "They're going to have a flaccid grand opening if they're not connected with the neighborhood." He plans to communicate his concerns to Target executives.
But some people aren't waiting for diplomacy. Palm Springs residents Michael Paduano and Reidar Arne organized a protest at their local store last weekend. "We were able to get several people to turn around and shop somewhere else," said Arne.
A video of Minnesota mother Randi Reitan cutting up her Target card went viral, with 200,000 views in its first week. "My youngest son is gay, and I love him more than anything I could ever buy at Target," Reitan wrote on a blog.
National days of protest are being planned on Facebook for August 14-15.
In addition, HRC may deduct points from Target's score in the 2011 Corporate Equality Index, set to be released next month.
"It's a conversation that we're having internally," said Cole. "There are a number of complicating factors when you're looking at where to draw the line as to what constitutes an anti-LGBT contribution. Certainly this is an egregious example."
He added, "Equality is good for business. And this decision is unfortunately very shortsighted on their part, having not taken into account the damage that is done to their brand and reputation when they make such a sizable donation."
Arne echoed those sentiments. "I love Target," he said. "But they don't have my business until they make this right."