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Target Denied Preliminary Ban on Equality Group Collecting Signatures Outside Stores

Target Denied Preliminary Ban on Equality Group Collecting Signatures Outside Stores

Embattled corporation Target, that also saw its partnership with music star and LGBT-rights advocate Lady Gaga dissolve this week, was dealt another blow Tuesday when a San Diego judge refused Target’s attorneys a motion to prevent grassroots marriage equality campaigners from gathering petition signatures outside stores in California while Target’s legal case against them is heard.

Target has faced heavy criticism from LGBT rights groups after it was revealed last year that the discount store giant had donated funds to MN Forward, a group that directly supported anti-gay candidate Tom Emmer in his failed 2010 run for governor of Minnesota.

In what is being billed as a David and Goliath legal case, Target is taking on Canvas for a Cause, a small grassroots effort dedicated to supporting marriage equality, because it says that petitioners are damaging business and violating the company’s no-solicitation policy.

From San Diego Gay & Lesbian News:

Judge Jeffrey B. Barton declared that the right of free speech trumps over the business interests of Target, and refused the corporation’s request to temporarily remove the activist group from outside Target stores in California pending trial.

The judge set a trial date for March 25.

Court documents filed by the Minnesota-based Target Corp. show that its agents are particularly unhappy that the San Diego-based Canvass For A Cause (CFAC) volunteers are seeking petition signatures in support of gay marriage.

Court documents filed in support of Target’s case paint the signature gatherers as “angry and aggressive” when questioning customers that do not agree with their standpoint on marriage equality:

“Canvass for a Cause solicitors typically start by asking our customers if they support gay marriage. If the answer is yes, they ask our customers to sign a petition and for a credit-card donation. If the answer is no, they challenge the customers on their beliefs. Whenever our customers say no, whether it is about making a donation, signing a petition, or about support for gay marriage, the solicitors become angry and aggressive, continuing to challenge our customers on their morals. I have seen them tell our customers not to vote if they are unhappy with the customers’ views.”

When told that Target has a no-solicitation policy, the protesters assert a right to free speech and, attorneys for Target claim, refuse to leave Target premises. Documents note that when law authorities have been called, they too have refused to remove solicitors on free speech grounds.

Court documents also suggest that those acting on behalf of Target are concerned that the chain may be perceived as being pro-gay marriage which, in turn, will cost them business, with one document saying:

“Some guests have told us that they are offended by the controversial pro-gay marriage 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. Many mothers with children have complained about the sensitive nature of the solicitors’ messaging.”

However, Canvass for a Cause leaders have expressed dismay that it they have been targeted by this legal complaint. The grassroots marriage equality group also denies claims that petition gatherers have been threatening or aggressive to Target’s customers.

Again, from San Diego Gay & Lesbian News:

Tres Watson, executive director of CFAC and a San Diego resident, said he was peeved that Target was focusing on the gay marriage petitions in its complaint.

“Actions like this by an organization that has a history of funding groups opposed to LGBT equality like Target are unacceptable. The desire to protect our families should not be offensive to Target, or its patrons. Our families deserve the same dignity and respect as that of any parent who loves their children, and Target Corp. needs to understand that gay and lesbian folks have the same hopes and dreams as anyone else,” Watson told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News in an exclusive interview.

Canvas for a Cause has also called into question Target’s no-solicitation policy because Target stores in California, they say, have allowed groups like the Girl Scouts and others to collect petition signatures.

For more on this case and for links to relevant court documents, please click here.

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Kevin Dooley.

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65 comments

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6:40AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

thanks for the post.Ignoring those I wish to avoid saves a great many arguments.

6:47PM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

Keep up with Target at: http://targetfiling.blogspot.com/

8:45PM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

If anyone knows of a website with a list of anti-LGBT companies please post it, as I believe many of us would love to know all of them (or as many as possible).
In reading some of the earlier comments, I do have a few choice things to say. While educating the public is always a good thing, please remember that being forceful about it only leads to more resentment. Noone should ever be treated unfairly. If a company says that petitions are allowed by one group, they should be allowed by others. When asking others to join your cause, be informative without being deceitful or forceful. Peaceful demonstration is always best. If someone is adament about an issue, let it be. You can tell when talking to someone if they are willing to have a discussion on a sensitive subject. Always be respectful, especially when children are present. Research the issue at hand, and be prepared. Consider offering another way to be contacted to further discuss your cause (such as phone contacts, facebook, myspace, IM, etc...) Some people may be interested in what you have to say but not have the time to talk at the moment. Main things to come away from this comment are Know your cause, Be respectful, and Be available.

8:32PM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

We do have people out there fighting for equality for our LGBT community. If you would like to help consider joining the Human Rights Campaign. With a donation of $50.00 you can get a membership, newsletter, bumper sticker, and your choice of other cool items that show your support and allow for discussion to start. http://shop.hrc.org/membership.html
You can also make a donation of any size online, or by check. Try googling Human Rights Campaign. There is always up to date news for each state, online petitions, ways to get involved in any state, etc....Make a difference and show that you care.

5:38PM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

The attention the CFAC is drawing is negative, intrusive upon shoppers, and NOT the compassion and understanding that same sex couples need. This approach is so far off it isn't funny. I feel its best to achieve compassion through educating the ignorant, NOT by making a spectacle of yourself in front of a store, and dare asking for money from a conservative!

5:15PM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

I wish no stores would allow petition gathers. I have stopped signing petitions bc the people (all types) lie as to what they want you to sign. I remember when signature gathers were trying to get Gov. Davis Recalled, they (I heard them) lie to people that the ballot was for schools and kids and such! Anyway, Target does not even allow the Girl Scouts on their property to sell Cookies. If GS and other groups are there they are doing it w/o Target permission.
That bothers me that the Corporation is giving money to right wing groups. I hate the Supreme Ct. gave their OK, For Corporations to be *like People* and give money to Candidates. That is wrong. But if the property is privately owned, I feel (even though I disagree with Targets stand on the Gay marriage) that the stores have a right to say NO to petition gathers. Who by the way get paid a lot per signature. Often they are out of the state, they are gather signatures for!!
And they can be rather rude and annoying. Even been to Safeway? Between those gathering signatures and those asking for money, you can't Escape!!

5:08PM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

I think its all hogwash. I don't shop at Target anyway but its not like this is going to put Target out of business and really, 6 months from now no one will even remember this. Who cares. As a Transgendered person and huge advocate of gay rights, I think the CFAC is just out to make an unnecessary scene. There are far more appropriate ways of getting a message out and far more reasonable methods for getting donations.

8:51AM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

Merci!

2:57PM PDT on Mar 14, 2011

Target need to understand that their actions have consequences. Well done, Canvass For A Cause. Being taken to court is one of the best ways of exposing Target's bigotry even further.

2:36AM PDT on Mar 14, 2011

I personally am uncomfortable with being stopped outside of stores, it's too bad they can't stand in the parking lot or just outside of it, and people who are interested can come up to them. But it makes you feel bad if you walk passed them but sometimes you just are in a hurry or don't want to be bothered. I know I don't like it myself. I mean not right outside the front entrance, do it to the side at least.

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