SF blogger plans Target boycott
by Tony K. LeTigre
One Target store is already under construction in San Francisco and another is on its way, but gay activists and marriage equality supporters like Roy Steele will not be part of the welcoming committee.
Steele, a gay Christian man who lives in the Lower Haight, has initiated a nationwide boycott of Target and a legion of other retailers who subscribe to the Christian Values Network.
"When I saw Target on the list of companies on the CVN website I was unhappy. I thought they had learned," Steele told the Bay Area Reporter.
He was referring to last year when Target gave $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, an independent expenditure committee backing a conservative Republican candidate for governor. The faux pas prompted Lady Gaga to pull her music from Target stores. (But Gaga's CD Born This Way is currently available for purchase at www.target.com.)
"After all that went down, Target made a statement that it would take a neutral stance on gay rights issues," Steele said. "But by being part of this network, they aren't neutral."
CVN is a virtual shopping portal (http://www.cvn.org) with almost 500 participating stores – although it has lost a few big names recently. The network donates a portion of each online sale to nonprofit religious groups, including several known to be virulently anti-gay: Promise Keepers, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council, which was recently classified a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In July a student in Bellingham, Washington named Ben Crowther organized a petition asking Apple to remove its iTunes store from CVN after he learned of the network's anti-gay associations. Apple promptly did so; in the interim Microsoft, Macy's, Wells Fargo, Delta Airlines, and BBC America have followed suit.
Early in August Steele received a message from Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson in response to his complaints, assuring him the company was looking "very seriously" into the matter. Shortly thereafter, according to Steele, Target was removed from the CVN list – only to reappear a few days later.
Steele also received several threatening messages, including an anonymous one telling him to "Die, faggot."
Frustrated by the company's non-responsiveness, and inspired by Crowther's example, Steele launched a boycott of Target and other CVN-participating stores. The boycott will include Labor Day picket lines, messages and calls to stores, and protests at stores that refuse the call. Follow the action at www.jiveinthe415.com.
Reached by phone, Carlson told the B.A.R. she could offer no comment regarding Target's stance on gay rights issues or its connection with CVN, then emailed a statement that read in part:
"Target believes in equality and does not discriminate. Through our Target.com affiliate program, Target partners with a variety of organizations that support a wide range of groups – including veterans, senior citizens, college students and religious organizations – through discounts and donations."
Inquiries to CVN were answered by an email from Laurie Higgins, consisting of a link to a press release on www.prnewswire.com titled "Charity Support Group to Retailers: Don't be Bullied by Activists." The release, dated August 16 – the same day the B.A.R. 's inquiry was made – alleges that CVN changed its name in March to CGBG (Charity GiveBack Group) and "is not a religious organization and does not have any religious content on its site."
The first Target store in San Francisco began construction at the Metreon in May, with Mayor Ed Lee on hand to mark the groundbreaking. At the end of June the Planning Commission green-lit a second Target to take over the long-vacant Mervyn's site at Geary and Masonic, with a projected opening date of spring 2013.
After the groundbreaking at the Metreon, Lee told the B.A.R. in late May that he has requested a meeting with company officials to ask them about the political giving controversy.
At the meeting, Lee said, Target executives apologized for the donations in question and explained that they had completely overhauled their protocols for giving to avoid any similar incident in the future.
"I have spoken with Target to repeat and reinforce our concerns," Lee told the B.A.R. Tuesday. "We will be meeting again in the next few weeks to understand Target's commitment to San Francisco in general and specifically to the LGBT community."
The city's two gay supervisors, Scott Wiener and David Campos, met with Target officials several times earlier this year. Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty also met with store officials before he left office in January.
"The message we sent is that if Target is coming to San Francisco, we want to know what Target is going to do for the LGBT community," Campos told the B.A.R. "We haven't heard anything since then, which is a little disappointing. You want to reserve judgment and give people time to make amends, but you would think they would be a little more pro-active."
Wiener said the issue has been "perplexing."
"Target clearly has a history or pattern of making these kinds of contributions, and it is troubling," said Wiener. "It has also been really perplexing to a lot of us, because Target, in the past, had a great track record. It was one of those companies we could always get behind, because they treated their LGBT employees so well."
Both Wiener and Campos said they will keep an open mind and look forward to hearing more from the store, as well as the community.
"The burden is on Target to explain," Wiener said.