MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. said Monday it won't give 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.
The discount retailing giant said it was "best to wait" given the controversy stirred by its donation, which prompted Facebook calls for a boycott and scattered protests outside stores. An anti-boycott site also popped up on Facebook from conservatives supporting Target.
"We believe that it is impossible to avoid turning any further actions into a political issue and will use the benefit of time to make thoughtful, careful decisions on how best to move forward," the company said in a statement.
In response, the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, said it will contribute $150,000 of its own money to political candidates in Minnesota who support gay marriage, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.
Target has been under pressure for three weeks for contributing $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that has run ads supporting Republican Tom Emmer.
Fred Sainz, an HRC 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."
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 over 62,000 fans as of Monday. But conservatives also threatened a backlash from the right, and an anti-boycott page on Facebook had over 17,500 fans as of Monday.
Sainz said the HRC 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 marriage equality bill," Sainz said. "Obviously, that is a priority for our community and having a Legislature that will pass that bill is equally important."
In its latest statement, Target said it would "continue to seek thoughtful ways to demonstrate the strong support for inclusiveness that we have held throughout our history."
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