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.


Anonymous said...

Actually that's not true, their policy is not enforced fairly. Last year Salvation army was in front of their stores in Sandiego, and today there are groups from Greenpeace out front.
The area at question is not private property, but in fact the sidewalk around the store which is public property under state law. Target does not own it or govern it. Your right to distraction free shopping is not referenced in the constitution. Protests are also annoying, but free speech is a right. Next you are going to say that candidates calling you or broadcasting commercials is distracting you from your tv experience, and should be illegal. It's all part of the political process, deal with it.

Target-Addict said...

So I guess you missed my last paragraph, where I clearly stated that they need to ENFORCE THE POLICY REGULARLY. Which, in my past experience, they haven't done a great job at. Some Target stores I shop at are "lax" about the policy, whereas others strictly enforce it.

I'm not against free speech; I totally support it. But again, in my experience, many of these solicitors have set up in the area right in front of the doors - under the main awning - that I would suspect is Target property (not public property). In that case, Target would have the right to enforce their policy.

Elizabeth said...

I agree with you Target Addict, I think they should take it as far from the doors as possible, and not be in everyones face. I shop at Whole Foods for many reasons, and one of them being that they don't let solicitors anywhere near their doors, un like Safeway, where you have to dodge them every single time!!

Judy C said...

I don't want to be harassed when I go to shop. By anyone. And I especially don't want to connect a store with any group. The Salvation Army is a charity. That's different. Greenpeace, not so much.

Critifur said...

So Judy, you feel free speech should only be valid for the groups you value?