Remember Target’s History Before Judging It

Target came out in support of allowing customers to use its bathrooms based on gender identity. The Internet reacted as expected: some applauded the chain for inclusiveness, and others pledged to boycott.

But is Target a paragon of tolerance and inclusiveness? Well, not historically.

Only a few years ago, Target’s PAC was caught on multiple occasions giving campaign donations to support anti-gay candidates for office.

Target’s donations came to the public’s attention in 2010, when they were caught giving $150,000 to MN Forward, a business-backed group making independent expenditures to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Among Emmer’s many anti-gay stances are his opposition to a law on anti-gay bullying; opposition to same-sex marriage; and a history of trying to change wording in bills to keep laws from applying to same-sex couples.

When news of the donation broke, LGBT groups called for a boycott of Target. Lady Gaga later severed an exclusivity deal with Target over the matter.

Target Corporation CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued an open letter to Target staff saying the donation was due to Emmer’s pro-business stances, but was nonetheless a regrettable decision.

“While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry,” read the statement in part.

It continued, “Going forward, we will soon begin a strategic review and analysis of our decision-making process for financial contributions in the public policy arena.”

So once Target apologized and pledged to change its policies, did that stop their giving to anti-gay candidates? Nope.

Following Steinhafel’s letter, that year Target’s PAC went on to give $31,200 in support of candidates opposed to gay rights, based on an analysis by The Awl. That included $1,000 to Senator Kelly Ayotte, who is opposed both to same-sex marriage and adoption by gays. Other donations went to Rep. David Camp and Sen. Michael Crapo, who both supported a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and voted against protection from employment discrimination for LGBT people.

Another donation went to Spencer Bachus, the Alabama congressman who said same-sex marriage would literally destroy the country: “We could lose Iraq and survive; we lost Vietnam and survived, but if we lose this battle over gay marriage, we are doomed.”

Still others went to Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline, who are opposed to anti-gay attacks being classified as hate crimes.

In 2013, Target was caught giving $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association at a time when the group spent about $3 million supporting Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who said homosexual sex acts are “against nature and are harmful to society.” As Attorney General, Cuccinelli also staunchly defended Virginia’s law against sodomy when it was overturned, claiming that the law was needed to prosecute pedophiles, and issued a legal opinion that state schools should not include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies.

It seems, then, that the public’s memory is short, given the outflows of support and vitriol for its bathroom policy.