Sunday, March 27, 2011
Target sues solicitors
A small, largely unknown group of same-sex marriage activists from San Diego has been sued by Target. The case has broad implications for free speech, assembly and property rights — and perhaps more immediate ramifications for the Bullseye, which has been besieged by negative publicity amid a widening rift with gay-rights supporters.
The local lawsuit follows a March 1 incident at a Target store between a shopper and a persistent activist from the local group Canvass for a Cause. With this move, Target is now fending off accusations of anti-gay sentiments for the third time since July.
Last summer, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized for one of the company’s campaign contributions, which benefited a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who supported economic growth and job creation but opposed same-sex marriage. Then this month, Lady Gaga backed out of a deal to sell a special edition of her new album at Target, reportedly because she was unhappy with how the company’s politics affect the gay community.
Target maintains in this case it’s simply trying to make shopping “distraction-free,” based on court rulings over the years that it interprets as allowing retailers without public-gathering areas to ban all solicitors, from the Salvation Army to political groups.
“To provide a distraction-free shopping environment for our guests, Target’s long-standing policy is that we do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented,” it said in a statement Friday. “Our legal action in California against Canvass for a Cause is in no way related to the cause of the organization. Target has taken similar action against a number of organizations, including churches and advocacy groups that represent a wide variety of issues.”
By the way, I purposely titled this post "Target sues solicitors" and NOT "Target sues LGBT group" as so many other news sources on the web did. In my mind, Target is taking on the issue of soliciting (which is explicitly against their policy) and the group in question just happens to be promoting LGBT issues. I've blogged about this before; I don't want to be approached by solicitors of any kind while I'm shopping, and I support Target's efforts to remove this distraction. I'll also add that they need to enforce it across the board - with ALL groups of solicitors - and not enforce it haphazardly as they've done so in the past.