Minnesota-based retail giant Target announced Tuesday that transgender people are free to use the bathrooms and fitting rooms in their stores that match the gender they identify with, not their sex.
"We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination," Target argued in a statement posted on the company's corporate website.
"In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity," the company added.
Target, which is the second-largest retailer only behind Walmart, said the company felt it necessary to "reiterate" their belief in inclusivity as a debate now rages in several states, including Minnesota, over bathroom laws.
"Recent debate around proposed laws in several states has reignited a national conversation around inclusivity. So earlier this week, we reiterated with our team members where Target stands and how our beliefs are brought to life in how we serve our guests," the company based in Minneapolis said. "Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It's something we celebrate."
Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, told the Star Tribune that the company restated its position due to questions it has received from both customers and employees amid the national debate on bathroom laws. Executives she said, sent an e-mail to store leaders earlier this week to convey the message.
"It's a restatement of a policy," she said. "It's just us being very overt in stating it."
Last week, evangelist Franklin Graham slammed rock singer Bruce Springsteen's decision to cancel a planned concert in North Carolina over a state law that bars transgender people from using women's bathrooms and locker rooms.
"Bruce Springsteen, a long-time gay rights activist, has cancelled his North Carolina concert. He says the N.C. law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women's restrooms and locker rooms is going 'backwards instead of forwards.' Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense," Graham wrote on his Facebook page.
A Minnesota House committee held a hearing last week on a similar proposal but it faces long odds and, if the measure passed, it would likely be veto by the state's Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
"Current proposals to enshrine such measures of discrimination in our state laws are appalling, and they are wrong," said Dayton, who banned non-essential travel by state officials to North Carolina in response to the state's bathroom law. "I repeat my pledge to veto any similar legislation, if it reaches my desk."
More than 100 companies including Starbucks, Apple, Google, Twitter and Facebook have signed a letter asking the governor of North Carolina to repeal its law, according to the Star Tribune. Pearl Jam along with Springsteen has also cancelled concerts in the state in protest.
Retail industry analysts told the Tribune that they haven't heard much until now from major retailers about their own restroom policies and Target's move could spark a new round of discussions.
"Target being more proactive about it could very well open — or force — the dialogue," said Carol Spieckerman, a retail consultant. "Any time a retailer takes a more vocal stance, the microphone goes in front of all of the others."