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Human Rights Campaign: Target won't offer olive branch

Monday, August 16, 2010 | 5:32 p.m. CDT

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. has decided against giving money to gay-friendly causes to quiet the uproar over a $150,000 donation that helped support a Minnesota governor candidate who opposes gay marriage, a national gay rights group said Monday.

In response, the Human Rights Campaign said it would contribute the same amount of its own money to political candidates in Minnesota who support gay marriage, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

A Target spokeswoman did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Target has been under pressure for three weeks for contributing $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that has run ads supporting Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Fred Sainz, an Human Rights Campaign spokesman, said Target and his group had reached two tentative agreements over the last couple weeks for the discount retail giant to give money to various gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender causes in Minnesota.

"Then, when we were ready to pull the trigger, literally at the 11th hour on two occasions, they pulled back and said they were not ready to proceed," Sainz said. "They said no deal. They said it was over."

Target didn't say why, he said.

"They were very diplomatic," Sainz said. "They simply said they were going to take no corrective action."

Minneapolis-based Target has cultivated a good relationship with the gay community and its image as an inclusive employer. The company has been a sponsor of the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. On Aug. 5, CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote employees to say he was sorry for the hurt feelings over the donation, which he said was motivated by Emmer's stance on business issues, not social issues.

Liberal groups reacted to news of Target's donation angrily. Their calls for a boycott and several scattered protests outside Target stores highlighted the risks companies face if they take advantage of their new freedom under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows them to spend company funds directly on political campaigns.

A boycott Target page on Facebook had more than 62,000 fans as of Monday. But conservatives also threatened a backlash from the right, and an anti-boycott page on Facebook had more than 17,500 fans as of Monday.

Sainz said the Human Rights Campaign has not decided how it will allocate the $150,000 it plans to spend on Minnesota campaigns.

"But at the top of our agenda is the next governor of Minnesota will hopefully be in a position to sign a quality-of-marriage bill," Sainz said. "Obviously, that is a priority for our community and having a legislature that will pass that bill is equally important."


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