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Target Sues To Keep Gay Rights Group Off Its Property

Illustration for article titled Target Sues To Keep Gay Rights Group Off Its Property

If Target really wants to make amends with gay-rights supporters, this isn't the way to do it. The company is suing the pro-gay marriage group Canvass For A Cause to make it stop talking to customers outside several of its San Diego stores because they're allegedly driving away business.

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Earlier, Target said its donation to a Minnesota politician who opposes marriage equality does not mean it supports his anti-gay views, and the chain tried to smooth things over by changing its donation policy. Lady Gaga said she agreed to sell an exclusive edition of Born This Way only after the company promised to affiliate itself with LGBT charities, but later the deal fell through.

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Despite the lawsuit, Target is still insisting it isn't anti-gay. The company said in a statement to the Associated Press:

Our legal action was in no way related to the cause of the organization and was done so to be consistent with our long-standing policy of providing a distraction-free shopping experience by not permitting solicitors at our stores.

Taget claims that Canvass For A Cause volunteers are cornering customers outside their stores and debating them on gay marriage. Supposedly at least eight stores in the area have recieved more than a dozen complaints daily since the group started canvassing in October.

Tres Watson, executive director of CFAC, told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News that Target hasn't offered any concrete evidence of the complaints, only hearsay. Target says it has successfully sued many other organizations for talking to customers outside its stores, but Watson claims they only won because the groups didn't defend themselves. "They bring out their million-dollar lawyers and go after grass-root groups that don't have a lot of money. It's always a David vs. Goliath situation," he said.

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At the heart of the issue is whether or not Target is a public or private space. The company claims it has a right to ban "expressive activity" on its property, but Watson says previous cases have found shopping centers are equivalent to public squares, so restricting the group's activity is a free speech violation. A ruling is expected in two weeks, but it seems Target stands to lose more customers if it wins. It's unclear if people really are avoiding the San Diego stores due to CFAC, but the case is already solidifying the idea that Target is anti-gay for customers across the country.

Target Sues San Diego Gay Rights Group [AP]
BREAKING NEWS: Judge To Rule In Two Week On Target Suit Vs. Canvass For A Cause [SDGLN]

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Earlier: Target Changes Giving Policy After Controversy Over Anti-Gay Donation
Did Lady Gaga Force Target To Reform Its Anti-Gay Donation Policy?
Lady Gaga Ends Target Deal Over Anti-Gay Donations

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DISCUSSION

Target does not allow any group to canvas on its properties. Every Holiday season, I hear another report about them denying the Salvation Army along with some ribbing about a lump of coal in their stocking. Target has made the business decision (whether or not you agree with it) to provide direct support to communities where they have a presence through their foundation. Not sure how good they are at it, but as a result, there's no soliciting-on-site. I can respect the across-the-board stance, even though it means everyone from Canvass For A Cause to The Girl Scouts will be denied. There may be legitimate complaints and concerns about their treatment of LGBT people, but this issue should not be confused with acts of genuine discrimination.