Gay rights and free speech have quickly
become salient issues in Minnesota's gubernatorial race after Target
donated thousands in support of an anti-gay candidate.
The Minnesota-based retail giant is
among the companies that donated to MN Forward, an independent
political fund supporting anti-gay Republican candidate Tom Emmer.
Emmer, a fierce social conservative,
has spoken in favor of putting a gay marriage ban in the Minnesota
Gay rights activists in Minnesota, led
by the group OutFront Minnesota, have protested the donation. And
25,000 people have joined the Facebook group Boycott
Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics.
Also caught in the cross-hairs are
Minnesota-based electronics giant Best Buy Co., Red Wing Shoes and
Polaris Industries Inc., a manufacturer of snowmobiles, all of which
donated to MN Forward.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest gay advocate, published an open letter to Target and
Best Buy in the Minnesota Star-Tribune calling on the
companies to make amends.
“It's time to make things right,”
the letter says. “The very least you can do to begin rebuilding
your image among fair-minded consumers is to make equivalent
donations to groups that support candidates who will put all
Minnesota families first and fulfill the promises of our highest
Target, which contributed the most
money, $150,000, and Emmer say the donations are more about free
speech than anything else.
The Republican presumptive nominee
called the flap “sad” because it dampened his free speech rights.
“We're supposed to celebrate the fact
that we have different perspectives,” he told Fox News.
Target CEO Gregg
Steinhafel said last week that his company remains committed to the
gay community and that the donation had more to do with supporting
business objectives such as job creation.
of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core
value of our company,” Steinhafel said in a statement.
Gay activists say
Target's long history of supporting the gay community makes its
decision to support Emmer even more troubling, and dismissed Emmer's
claim that his or Target's free speech rights are being trampled over.
“We have the
right to be able to criticize that decision [by Target] and do it
publicly,” Monica Meyer, of OutFront Minnesota, said.
Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous
opponent of gay marriage, has called Minnesota the next key
battleground in the gay marriage debate. The group announced in May
it would pour $200,000 into the state.
in the race to win their party's August 10 nomination support
legalizing gay marriage. A July 21 Rasmussen poll found all three
hopefuls enjoying a narrow lead over Emmer.
One of those
Democrats, ironically, is former Senator Mark Dayton, whose family