By now, you’ve probably heard that there’s a Target boycott going on. You may also have heard that the reason behind it is Target’s $150,000 donation that went to Tom Emmer’s campaign for Governor of Minnesota. The reason that this has gotten so much attention is Emmer’s history of homophobia (among other things). When I heard that Target was supporting a candidate that was anti-gay, and that there was a boycott going on, I decided right away to join in. But, to be responsible about things, I wanted to take the time to learn a little more about this situation, and now that I have, I want to share that information with all of you.
Let’s start here: In June, the Minnesota Independent wrote about the five candidates for Governor. The main point of the article, as it turns out, was that of the five candidates, Emmer was the only one who wasn’t “strongly in favor of” marriage equality for same-sex couples.
So we have something to compare Emmer to, here’s a little about the other candidates.
“I unequivocally support marriage equality, meaning the right of any person to marry legally the person he or she loves,” he told the Minnesota Independent.
Entenza was also one of only four legislators to sponsor a bill to legalize same-sex marriage back in 1998 — the first time legislators had ever considered such a bill.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher:
She says she will sign same-sex marriage into law if she is Minnesota’s next governor. She calls it “a matter of fair treatment”
“I think gays and lesbians should be equal members in all aspects of our society,”
And now, Tom Emmer:
“I believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman,” he says on his campaign website. “As a legislator, I have consistently supported the constitutional marriage amendment that protects traditional marriage.”
In 2007, Emmer authored a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage and civil unions.
In many instances, Emmer has tried to change language in bills so that same-sex couples cannot benefit. In a bill to create standards around surrogate motherhood, Emmer attempted to replace the word “parents” with the words “mother and father.” In a wrongful death bill this season, Emmer questioned the use of the word “domestic partner” just as he has in bills aimed at providing benefits for same-sex partners.
As far as anti-gay politicians go, Emmer’s unapologetic discrimination is bad, but not surprising. It’s nothing that Target should be supporting, but being against equal marriage rights, unfortunately, isn’t exactly out of the ordinary. So what about Emmer has pushed people to go as far as boycotting Target?
Actually, it’s something that Jordan wrote about recently.
Emmer is associated with a Christian hard rock ministry known as You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, Intl. Inc. As the Minnesota Independent reports, “Emmer’s campaign had purchased table space at the group’s fundraiser and visited with the group on the radio and in person.”
And what makes an association with this group worthy of public outrage? Maybe it’s because they say things like this…
“Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America. This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”
“If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that. That is what you are seeing in America.”
“The bottom line is this… they [homosexuals] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator. On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?”
And what does Emmer think about the group saying this? He says they “are nice people’ and he “really appreciate[s] their passion’ and “respect[s] their point of view.”
And Target gave him $150,000.
Michael A. Jones of Change.org asks:
So why wouldn’t Target take better care to make sure their money wasn’t going to someone who absolutely abhors LGBT equality, and hangs around people who believe it’s sweet for gay people to be slaughtered? After all, Target does have a number of gay-friendly policies, including domestic partner benefits. And it remains quite popular among the LGBT retail crowd.
But is their support from the gay community deserved? Especially if they’re dropping six figures down on candidates working hard to keep LGBT people second class citizens?
Unfortunately, Target doesn’t have a good answer. At least, not one that’s good enough, in my opinion.
Gawker.com reports that the following is, in part, the response that Jennifer Hanson of Target Executive Offices, has been sending out in reply to the complaints that they have been receiving about the donation.
What’s more important than any one candidate’s stance on a particular issue is how we nurture thoughtful, long-term growth in the state of Minnesota.
Our support of causes and candidates is based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business objectives. To continue to grow and create jobs and opportunity in our home state, we believe it is imperative to be engaged in public policy and the political process.
MN Forward’s objective is to elect candidates from both parties who will make job creation and economic growth a top priority.
As a corporation, part of Target’s responsibility, probably its main responsibility, is to make money. But what responsibility, if any, does Target as a corporation really have beyond that? Isn’t it their right to look out for their bottom line above any other concern? If people don’t like Tom Emmer, they don’t have to vote for him. If the Target corporation feels that Tom Emmer would be good for their bottom line, can you blame them for supporting his campaign?
If you can’t, their shareholders can. And they are.
August 19, 2010 (Boston) –Trillium Asset Management Corporation, along with Walden Asset Management and Calvert Asset Management Company, has filed shareholder proposals this week at Target and Best Buy, which are under fire for making sizable political contributions to a group channeling funds to a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate known for his opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
You can read the full press release: HERE
In a piece on Change.org about the shareholders’ outrage, Stu Dalheim, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Calvert Asset Management Company, says:
"We continue to call for increased transparency and disclosure of corporate political spending. The absolutely wrong conclusion for companies to draw from this controversy is that everything will be all right as long as they conceal their political contributions," Dalheim said. “Instead they must ensure that they have a transparent governance framework that ensures they align their political spending with their business interests and stated policies.”
HRC has also gotten involved. The following is from their recent press release. You can read it in full: HERE.
8/16/2010 Washington – After two weeks of good-faith discussions…with Target Corporation, the company has informed the Human Rights Campaign…that it will take no corrective actions to repair the harm that it caused by contributing $150,000 to an organization supporting a vehemently anti-gay candidate closely associated with a Christian rock band that advocates death and violence to gay people.
In response, HRC announced that it will devote $150,000 of its own resources to help elect a pro-equality governor and legislature in Minnesota. The next governor will likely have the opportunity to either sign or veto marriage equality legislation in the North Star State.
“All fair-minded Americans will now rightly question Target’s commitment to equality. If their initial contribution was a slap in the face, their refusal to make it right is a punch in the gut and that’s not something that we will soon forget,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
So…what is Target’s response to all of this? As stated above, they have not said that they will ask for the money back or donate an equivalent or higher amount to a pro-equality candidate or to an equal rights organization to make up for the money that went to Tom Emmer. But Gregg Steinhafel, Chairman, President and CEO of Target, does have this to say:
The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation. While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry.
Wow, Gregg. Thanks. You sound so…genuine.
More from his letter:
We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals. The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our unique culture and our success as a company, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests
You can read the full letter: HERE
Look, Target does do a lot of good. They donate to a lot of other organizations that are really wonderful. They help a lot of people. They’re a great store, and, up until a few weeks ago, I loved shopping there. There is a store within 5 minutes of my house, and I used to go there for a lot of different things. I’ve never had a problem with Target before. But now I do and I don’t think I should have to apologize for that.
Since deciding to join the boycott of Target, I have spent $125.09 at other stores that I would otherwise have spent at Target. I know that, relatively, that may not be a lot, but I also know that many people, deciding to act together, add up to big differences.
I don’t hate Target, and if they would take action to make up for donating to someone so homophobic, I would have no problem shopping there again. Maybe all the good that they do really does outweigh this one bad thing, but ignoring or accepting this one bad thing is not something that I am willing to do. Maybe I’m being unreasonable, and I realize that. I’m okay with that. But I’m not okay with Target giving $150,000 to Tom Emmer. And so, even though they also support organizations that I do like, I cannot overlook this bad decision.
I have written a letter to the General Manager of my local Target store, letting them know that this corporate decision is directly effecting their location. I hope that the people who feel that the Emmer donation is reason enough to not shop at Target, do the same. If you don’t feel that the Emmer donation is reason enough to boycott Target- fine- that’s the way you feel about things. Other than its association with Emmer, I completely agree that Target is a great place to shop. I get it. But for me, personally, if a corporation who cares only (or mostly) about money chooses to use some of that money to support a politician who wants to make certain Americans second-class citizens based on his own prejudices…Target will not be doing so with any of my money.