Minneapolis-based retailer Target announced it will not take sides on the marriage amendment slated to appear on Minnesota’s 2012 ballot.
During a Wednesday shareholders meeting, company officials told investors that it would take a neutral stance on the referendum that, if approved next year by Minnesota voters, would define marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Our position at this particular time is that we are going to be neutral on that particular issue, as we would be on other social issues that have polarizing points of view," announced CEO Gregg Steinhafel.
He added, "We're a retail store, we welcome everybody."
His announcement came after gay rights advocacy groups called for a national boycott against Target for donations that were perceived to be in support of traditional marriage.
Target gave $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that supported Tom Emmer, who backed a proposed amendment to uphold traditional marriage. Emmer lost the gubernatorial race to Gov. Mark Dayton.
Shareholders asked Steinhafel about the donation during the meeting this week.
“Last year was a great learning experience for us," Steinhafel responded, according to Reuters.
But MN Forward has supported politicians from the Republican and Democratic Farmer Labor parties. That support is based primarily on their stance on job creation, reduced state spending and tax reform. One of MN Forward's supported candidates, Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), actually expressed displeasure with the marriage amendment last month, stating it would harm her gay brother.
However, that hasn't stopped groups such as Facebook group "Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics" or MoveOn.org from calling for a national boycott alleging, "Target just gave over $150,000 to buy ads supporting a far-right Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota."
MoveOn.org has tweaked its ads to establish that its boycott is aimed at stopping companies such as Target from buying elections.
However, its original boycott e-mail, according to Daily Finance, began by stating, "Target just gave a huge contribution to an anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-progressive candidate for governor in Minnesota."
A similar boycott was mistakenly waged against fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A. After two local Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A stores agreed to donate free food to a marriage retreat held by two churches, gay websites began questioning connections between the corporation and the anti-gay marriage movement. They concluded that purchasing food from the chain means you are giving resources to those who are against gay marriage.
Materials such as advertising and videos for the retreat had been provided by Pennsylvania Family Institute, an advocate of traditional marriage.
PFI president Michael Geer refuted the statements saying the local Chick-fil-A branches involved were simply trying to "be good neighbors" because the retreat's host churches were located in their community.
While Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy and his family are Southern Baptists who believe in traditional marriage, he said of the decision to donate food, "Operators simply agreed to provide sandwiches and brownies for the events as many Chick-fil-A franchisees have done over the years for community events, businesses and civic groups."
Still Group Change.org launched a petition igniting a boycott that even led Indiana University South Bend to suspend Chick-fil-A from selling food in its two dining halls. The school eventually reversed its decision, stating the local Chick-fil-A franchise's sandwich sales on campus do not violate the letter or spirit of its policies.
However, the franchise felt compelled to proclaim it would not champion any political agendas on marriage and family in order to ease protests.
Michael Brown, a minister and author of A Queer Thing Happened to America, told The Christian Post earlier that gay advocates are shutting down the dialogue in the name of tolerance.
After taking heat for his own book which chronicles the gay rights movement and shows how it has influenced American public, he remarked, "It’s as if those who came out of the closet fighting for what they said was equality and tolerance want to put us in the closet who take respectful difference."
In the case of businesses such as Target and Chick-fil-A, they are seemingly being put in the closet for simply appearing to differ on the gay marriage issue.
In addition to adopting a neutral stance on Minnesota's marriage amendment, CEO Steinhafel says Target has also revised its donation policy.