Rights Group Wants Retailer's To "Make It Right"
Washington – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), is condemning donations by Target and Best Buy to a political committee supporting the election of an anti-equality candidate and asked them to make it right by contributing to groups that support pro-equality candidates.
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, Minnesota-based retailers Target and Best Buy, among others, contributed a combined $250,000 to MN Forward, an independent expenditure committee advocating for the election of a strident opponent of LGBT equality as the state’s next governor. The same candidate sings the praises of a Christian rock band that advocates violence and death to gays. The state’s next governor will have the opportunity to either sign or veto legislation allowing for marriage equality in the North Star State.
“It’s a huge slap in the face to LGBT people and for that matter to all fair-minded Americans,” said Joe Solmonese, HRC president. “Two of our most trusted brands have contributed shareholder money that could help elect a candidate that wants nothing but the worst for us. Both companies talk about this contribution as a business decision. I would offer that it’s a really bad business decision. Both companies have now earned the bad will of LGBT people and fair-minded Americans. They need to make it right.”
HRC has sent out a national email alert to its members and supporters asking them to sign on to an Open Letter to Target and Best Buy. The letter chronicles the outrage and asks both companies to make equivalent donations to groups that support pro-equality candidates. HRC also purchased a full page ad featuring the letter in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune. Corporations mindful of the perceptions of LGBT and allied consumers should take notice of the controversy surrounding these political contributions.
Both companies have consistently received a 100 percent rating on the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, a measure of workplace equality. “What makes this all the more astounding is that both companies have been model employers for LGBT people,” said Solmonese. “They have some fence-mending to do.”
An Open Letter to Target and Best Buy
When lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers — not to mention our millions of supportive friends and family members — used to think about Target and Best Buy, we saw two shining examples of corporations that respected the equality and dignity of every American. As nationwide retailers, both of your brands gave other corporations a standard to which they could aspire. In fact, your consistent ratings of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index were a solid signal of your commitment to a diverse workforce. As a community, we are grateful for that commitment and we fully expect it will continue.
Now, Americans are questioning their loyalty to your brands with word of significant contributions to the political action committee MN Forward that hopes to install one of the most strident opponents of equality in the Minnesota Governor’s mansion. With these contributions, you have severely damaged those carefully cultivated reputations and violated the spirit of the gold standards bestowed on you. In fact, the long-term effects on families that shop at Target and Best Buy throughout Minnesota and the U.S. will be devastating.
At this critical time in Minnesotans’ quest for equality, MN Forward and the candidates they are supporting would turn Minnesota backward, away from the promise of equal opportunity and fairness that we hold dear. No matter your motivations in making these donations, they didn’t occur in a vacuum. Same-sex couples in your home state are denied the equality given to other couples in marriage and many state leaders are poised to right that inequity very soon. $250,000 in contributions to those who would stand in the way is a punch in the gut to those of us who want to see all families treated fairly. What may have sounded like a “good business decision” in the board room turns out to be a horribly short-sighted business decision when millions of consumers lose respect for your companies.
With the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the landscape for political contributions has changed in ways that no one fully appreciates yet. Your foray into this uncharted water has proved choppy and should serve as a warning to other corporations mindful of the perceptions of LGBT and allied consumers.
It’s time to make things right. The very least you can do to begin rebuilding your image among fair-minded consumers is to make equivalent donations to groups that support candidates who will put all Minnesota families first and fulfill the promises of our highest ideals.
We’re watching and we’re waiting.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.