To Boycott or Not?

@Target’s Support of Anti-Gay MN Candidate Disappoints

A shiny new Target has opened in my Uptown Chicago neighborhood. I have been looking forward to this anchor business here, having high hopes for convenient access to affordable household goods that we need and like. Also, this neighborhood is struggling economically, and while I have a penchant for supporting mom-and-pop stores (or in some cases around here, mom-and-mom and pop-and-pop), I have hopes that Target will bring new foot traffic and customers to the family-owned shops and restaurants that I love and want to see thrive around here, not to mention the fact that the new store will be an injection of jobs for the neighborhood and environs.

Within days after the store opened the news broke about Target supporting the campaign of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, notoriously anti-gay and associated with a local band that has openly condoned the killing of gays and lesbians.

Target has done the right thing by its gay and lesbian employees over the years, having received the highest employer rating from the Human Rights Commission. But by comparison, supporting Tom Emmer’s campaign hurts LGBT people more than all of Target’s pro-gay corporate policies.

Many straight people don’t fully understand the impact on our lives of the lack of protections and the lack of access to resources that LGBT folks endure, not to mention the run-of-the-mill bigotry and prejudice that many of us experience every day. Yes, there are some things that are simple inconveniences, like the fact that we have to file new documentation for our partnerships each time we move to a new state or change jobs.

But the discrimination that we face can also be catastrophic and downright heart-breaking, like Janice Langbehn, who, with her children, was prevented from visiting her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond in a Florida hospital. Pond ended up dying alone. And this happened even after Pond and Langbehn had done everything in their power to prevent exactly this type of situation from happening.

Even when we do everything right in terms of filing our paper work and declaring power of attorney, LGBT families still face the very real possibility that any institution or bigoted employee can decide that they want to disregard our relationships to each other, can fire us from our jobs, and can intimidate and harass us for being who we are.

The reality is that politicians like Tom Emmer pose a real threat to the well-being of LGBT people and our families.

Committed same-sex partnership is not less-than, it is not a separate, distinct institution from committed opposite-sex partnership.

We are family.

Gregg Steinhafel, CEO of Target, issued a response that was a litany of how Target has supported its LGBT employees and the Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. For all that they have done, I am truly grateful. But this gift to Emmer’s campaign pretty much negates all of that. Emmer’s policies, if he is elected, would most assuredly have a far greater negative impact on the LGBT citizens in Minnesota than any of the good Target has offered its LGBT employees.

When are corporate executives going to recognize that supporting anti-gay policies in any way is not good corporate citizenship? It hurts employees and customers, it is offensive, and it is equivalent to supporting segregation laws. There is no excuse for supporting a candidate who advocates for discrimination against any class of people.

When they do recognize it, they will be ashamed of ever having supported politicians like Tom Emmer. Hopefully Steinhafel will have the presence of mind to see that Target should put its money where its mouth is and give a greater or equal amount of money in support of an LGBT civil rights organization or candidate who supports our community and interests.

Meanwhile, do I shop at Target, or not?

I’m torn because I have liked shopping at Target over the years, and this neighborhood really needs this business. I have believed for a long time that its opening here would improve the quality of life in Uptown. However, I feel hard-pressed to patronize a company that supports a candidate who is actively advocating discrimination against me and my family. I know that it probably isn’t likely to have much effect, but on principle alone I find it hard to stomach giving them my money.

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