Target Publicly Endorses Marriage Equality, Changing Its Anti-Gay Position

Back in the day — four years ago, to be exact — Target came under fire for opposing same-sex marriage. But the popular retailer giant has made a complete 180-degree turn in the years since. Target publicly endorsed same-sex marriage in a court brief for a pending marriage equality legal case in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The retailer announced its support of the marriage equality case in a post on the company's blog, A Bullseye View. Jodee Kozlak, Target's executive vice president and chief human resources officer, writes:

It is in that same spirit that, this week, Target joined several other national companies to sign on to an amicus brief in support of marriage equality. The brief is currently pending in the Seventh Circuit.

As our leadership team discussed signing on, we took time to consider the bigger questions at hand. This brief is important, as the issues it addresses have significant impact on businesses. But it is more than that and we agreed that now is the right time to more directly share our views on this issue.

It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that includes rights we believe individuals should have related to marriage.

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According to Kozlak, the amicus brief that the company signed focuses on the troubles that state-level same-sex marriage bans create — particularly when it comes to the employee benefits offered by large national businesses such as Target. Kozlak writes that these anti-gay marriage laws, as well as the refusal to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, have made it difficult for Target and other businesses to take care of their employees:

At Target, we have long offered comprehensive, competitive benefits to our LGBT team members and their families, often above what is legally required. We continue to do so today because we believe doing so is right for our team and for our business. But current laws — in places like Wisconsin and Indiana that are addressed in this brief – make it difficult to attract and retain talent. These disparate laws also create confusing and complicated benefits challenges across multiple states.

This endorsement marks a huge U-turn for Target Corporation, which backed a same-sex marriage opponent just four years ago. In 2010, the company reportedly donated $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, a political action group that supported the anti-gay marriage gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. After receiving a maelstrom of criticism from LGBTQ rights groups, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel penned a letter apologizing to employees:

The intent of our political contribution to MN Forward was to support economic growth and job creation. 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.
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Still, many doubted whether the company, which is known to be an accepting workplace for LGBTQ employees, was truly sorry for backing anti-gay candidates. According to Right Wing Watch, the company donated $50,000 to Virginia Attorney General and strident gay marriage opponent Ken Cuccinelli in 2013, through the Republican Governors Association. However, the company also donated the same amount of funds to the Democratic Governors Association that year.

A Target spokesperson responded to the allegations leveraged against the company, saying:

Target’s commitment to the LGBT community is long-standing and unwavering. We also believe strongly in our civic responsibility to engage in a bipartisan manner at the state and federal level in order to learn about public policy priorities and advocate on issues that affect our business ... One of the ways we do this is through membership in both the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations, both of which include several hundred other corporate members.

Although Target has shown a commitment to supporting both Republican and Democratic candidates, it seems like the company is taking a firmer position on same-sex marriage and the rights of LGBTQ workers. Plus, we also can't forget Target's pro-gay marriage ads, which the company first began running in 2012.

It took some time, but it looks like Target finally hit the bullseye.