Gay Blog: Target is Just as Bad as Wal Mart

Target Is on the Warpath…Suing an LGBT Grassroots Organization!

We had to rub our eyes when we saw this come through the wire this morning: Target is suing an LGBT grassroots activist group in San Diego! Wha?!?

Gay blog: CFAC petitions at a CA mall
CFAC Canvasses at an outdoor mall

Apparently, Canvass for a Cause has been standing outside a Target store in sunny San Diego and asking patrons to sign petitions as they walk into the store. Target is not so happy about that, and has sued in Superior Court.

Judge Jeffrey Barton will hear arguments today from both sides, and it is sure to be juicy. Target has been in hot water for their political contributions to conservative groups, as well as an anti-gay candidate in the Minnesota governor’s race. And it looks like this water is boiling, as court documents filed in the case show that Target is not happy with equality-for-all groups standing in front of their stores.

Target, specifically one store in Poway, CA, says that CFAC is violating their stores’ No Solicitation policy, and that they have no legal right to be there. CFLAC counters, saying that these are effectively today’s “town squares,” and their right to be there is protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

The argument, as laid out in the sworn testimony by Executive Team Lead for Assets Protection for Target Corporation (!) Daniel Brown, basically comes down to the face that Target does not want to be seen as condoning gay marriage – or any pro-gay issues whatsoever – by allowing these gay groups to canvass for signatures outside their stores. They also say that customers are complaining that “the Canvass for a Cause solicitors are aggressive, that the guests feel harassed, and that the guests don’t feel safe or comfortable coming  to our Target  store.” On several occasions, Mr. Brown has even called the police – only to have the law tell him that the canvassers have a right to assembly.

In a statement to the Associated Press, a Target representative said, “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.”

And yet, Mr. Brown continues by saying:

Multiple guests have told us that they will not shop at Target as long as Canvass for a Cause is present. Some guests have told us that they are offended by the controversial pro-gay messaging of the solicitors, and that they assume Target promotes the same view. One solicitor said that he will do everything he can to ensure that his friends and family also do not shop at Target anymore. One guest informed us that they were going to return everything they have bought because they were offended by the group.

CFAC counters by saying that the their right to free speech has been upheld by San Diego’s courts before, when they decided that free speech activities were exempt from the no trespassing law. Basically, they are saying that Target has not proven that the area in front of their stores constitutes private property, and that they therefore have no right to remove them from the premises.

CFAC notes that Target has had no problem allowing the Girl Scouts and veteran groups to sell and canvass outside of the very same stores. Also, the store in question puts a giant sign next to the canvassers saying that Target does not condone this activity, making Target’s views clear to each customer. “It’s very David vs. Goliath,” CFAC executive director Tres Watson told NPR. “We understand they’re the Goliath in the room. They’ve got all money in world to get us to stop talking about gay marriage.”

Gay blog: Target is at it againAHHHHH! We just cannot believe it. Target, what is wrong with you? Do you not realize that you already have a huge PR problem within the gay community? Do you not realize that you cannot deny rights to one group and then allow another to set up shop in front of your stores – even if they are cute little girls with cookies? Basically, Target, you are saying that you do not want your company to be affiliated with “pro-gay messaging” but you are cool being affiliated with the Girl Scouts and the veterans?

It’s understandable that the conversation makes some people “uncomfortable:” in California, LGBT people are denied some 1,500 rights that straight people enjoy! It’s more than uncomfortable for us – it’s painful.

These people – just like anyone else – have the right to express their opinions in a public place. Granted, if the courts determine it to be private property, then the company has the right to remove whomever they please from the premises. But if they allow some groups the right to be there and not others, that is called discrimination.

So tread carefully, Target, because while Mr. Brown may be lamenting the lost of business to that one Poway store, the rest of us are watching carefully. Your company continues to prove that you have no tact when it comes to our community. You come across as more and more anti-gay as time goes on.

Judge Barton has denied a preliminary injunction filed by Target to prevent the canvassers from returning to the store fronts, and the trial starts today.

  • Sorry to be the voice of reason, but Target has a long-standing “no soliciting” policy. It’s why people pounce on them every Christmas season for not allowing Salvation Army bell-ringers outside their doors. Also, technically CFAC has not had their rights violated; Target stores, like other businesses, are technically private property, and free speech rights do not apply when someone is using private property to exercise their First Amendment rights.
    It sucks that Target does this, but frankly CFAC will not have a leg to stand on in court.

  • Emily Phillips

    Guess I’m boycotting target! It won’t be too hard, all they have are overpriced houseware and ugly clothes. If some Target customers (and I am sure it is a very small minority) refuse to shop at Target until the activists are gone, then Target should do the right thing, say well thank you for your business and STOP SUPPORTING INEQUALITY.

  • Dale Winters

    This is just stupid! Doesn’t Target realize that a lot of its customers, (and I see this at many of its Cleveland Ohio stores) are gay? What message is that sending not only to gay customers, but gay employees? That’s it! I will never shop at Target again, they have lost a customer…

  • I agree with Carly Savannah Strong. I work for Target, and they kinda made sure that we all knew about they’re no soliciting policy. That’s been there for a long time, and if I were not working there, and I don’t think I would want people pestering me about signing petitions. To be frank, I don’t even like going shopping during the holiday seasons, because of those damn bell-ringers. They’re so damn annoying! But that’s my P.O.V.

    Now I know this may sound strange to you, but I am openly gay, and all my co-workers know that. I agree with Targets standings on this, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with they’re past political donations.

  • I agree with you 100%

  • The real question probably relates to how California and San Diego handle Private Property claims related to Free Speech issues. It would probably be trespassing for the activists to enter the store to petition. However, outside the store in a mall setting Targets rights likely stop with their doors. The Mall may be able to make an argument, but Target likely can’t. In a stand alone store, Target could argue private property to the edge of the parking lot.

    There is however, also the fact that Target is selectively enforcing their no solicitation policy. The court could easily argue that a policy that choses one group over the other is discriminatory. Then you end up with State law deciding if that’s acceptable or not.

    From a PR point of view this isn’t likely to be a net gain for Target. At best they may end up saving or attracting as many people as they drive away. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

  • Anonymous

    I would make sure that I’m protesting on public property before I engage in a protest.

  • Anonymous

    We are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. There is no in-between. Maybe there is another store where you live that could use your skills in ringing up products, stocking shelves, and sweeping floors?
    I feel that I should tell you this because I currently work for a company that has similar issues with public policy. Though the company pays me decently, and offers benefits to part-time employees, and recognizes same-sex partnerships with benefits, it also sells products that are harmful to the health of customers and creates immense quantities of waste; therefore, I feel that it is important for me to find a new job- and I am taking steps to do just that.

    There are innumerable ways that we can earn a living without harming others.

  • Keep us posted on the progress!

  • It will be interesting to see what the judge thinks public property is.

  • It’s interesting that they allow the Salvation Army – quite the conservative group – to solicit money on their private property!

  • As a former Target employee, I have a bit to say on both sides of this argument.

    1) Target is entitled to claim “private property” in regards to solicitors, provided they /are/ on private property. As mentioned before, if they’re in a shopping center or mall, and not on their own parcel of land, that goes out the door a bit.

    1A) According to the article, Target’s already been told off when trying to use the legal system to turn away solicitors.

    2) This is the biggie for me: if you’re going to claim a no-solicitation policy, it has to be enforced equally. As with the article, at the Target I used to work at, they would actually chase off solicitors they didn’t want in front of their store, but others were allowed to stay. In my store’s case, the ones chased away were “controversial” and usually attempting to gather signatures for one petition or another (the couple of petitions I saw were fighting against AZ’s Prop 206, the AZ equivalent to CA Prop 8), so I guess that’s par for the course.

    Personally, I haven’t given Target my business since I stopped working for them, and with the constant belittling of the LGBT community lately, I don’t see that changing.

  • Matty Keilman

    This is really disappointing to see this coming from Target… How can you be a workplace that “encourages difference” and such yet bare such hatred towards the LGBT community?

  • Richard

    I know I’m WAY behind on this entry (and not to defend Target) but MANY retailers do not allow solicitation outside their stores, on store property.  Although I think it’s a moral (and marketing) faux pas to sue a gay rights organization after what they’ve been through, my personal opinion is that they have a right to dictate what happens on their property just the same as I do on my front lawn (if I had a front lawn), particularly if they can prove adverse reaction to their customers coming into the store. 

    May the lynching begin.

  • I do love how their “No Solicitation” policy allows Girl Scouts and veterans to get money, but a pro-LGBT group is not allowed to get signatures. I always feel harassed when little girls try to guilt trip me into buying their damn cookies when I enter and leave the store. If you’re going to stop one group, stop them all.

  • Darby Gamaliel

    If I were to ever own a store and a few customers told me that they did not care for those outside of my store canvassing for gay rights, I would gladly bid them adieu. I will not tolerate hate like that in my store or outside of it. Tsk tsk Target. TSK TSK!

  • Gabriel Mejia

    I think the bigger problem here, which people seem to be overlooking, is that companies can ban soliciting on their property… and most do.