BY Julie Bolcer
February 19 2011 2:25 AM ET
Equality-minded little monsters undoubtedly put their paws up Friday when Lady Gaga announced that her exclusive album distribution deal with Target requires the company to support LGBT charity groups and reform its past support for antigay causes. Since last summer, the Minnesota-based retailer has been under fire, including a high-profile boycott and tarnished rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, for a $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a group that backed failed Republican gubernatorial candidate and marriage equality opponent Tom Emmer.
"That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I've ever had in a business meeting,” the pop star told Billboard magazine, assuring fans her deal with Target was “hinged upon their reform.”
The Gaga exhalation followed related news that Target updated its political giving policy upon an internal review after the 2010 election cycle. The changes, first reported in the Washington Blade on Thursday, took effect last month and entail the establishment of a policy committee of senior executives who, in conjunction with the chief executive officer and oversight from the board of directors, will guide decision-making about financial support for political activities.
Responses to the new political giving framework ran the gamut from supportive to dismissive to wait-and-see among observers who spoke with The Advocate.
“I think it’s a win,” said Dot Belstler, executive director of Twin Cities Pride, which had met with Target about the MN Forward contribution. “They admitted they screwed up and as a result of the community outcry, they were able to actually move forward.”
Twin Cities Pride is a past and potential future recipient of support from Target, which also plans to support Pride events in San Francisco and Chicago. Next year, in the fashionable downtown areas of both cities, Target plans to open “CityTarget,” a scaled-down, hipper version of its store, in addition to openings in Los Angeles and Seattle.
In San Francisco last summer at the height of the controversy, gay former supervisor turned mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty initially fought the prospect of Target opening at two locations. He relented when he concluded a standoff would only alienate the powerful brand and eliminate opportunities for friendly pressure on issues like marriage equality and anti-bullying initiatives.
“Hopefully, it’s a good step,” said Dufty of the new policy. “But I think it’s a step that reflects on how difficult the past several months have been for Target. This is the worst $150,000 they ever spent.”
One group unwilling to budge from confrontation is MoveOn.org, which called for a boycott of Target in August and said it had no intention of recanting in light of the new announcement.
“Not much has changed,” said Robin Beck, campaign director for Moveon.Org. “As far as we can tell, they’ve expanded the number of people who will be making decisions about the political giving they do. There’s no apology for the giving they’ve done, there’s no commitment to equality. There’s no commitment to stop funding 527s. There’s no commitment to not use corporate funds.”