Target Supports Marriage Equality Through Federal Suit

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com August 05 2014 5:32 PM ET

Major retailer Target announced Tuesday that it has signed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in support of marriage equality in two cases that are before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The cases, Baskin v. Bogan, out of Indiana, and Wisconsin's Wolf v. Walker, are both on appeal after federal district courts struck down same-sex marriage bans in those states.

"As our leadership team discussed signing on, we took time to consider the bigger questions at hand,"Jodee Kozlak, Target's executive vice president and chief human resources officer, explained today. "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."

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said Target's involvement in the cases indicated that the company and many other major businesses "know these bans on marriage equality serve no purpose other than to harm families." Griffin added, "We are grateful to Target for speaking out and standing up for the rights of not just its LGBT employees, but Americans from across the country who deserve to be treated with fairness and equality under the law."

The retailer has been criticized by LGBT activists for donating to antigay candidates and political groups as recently as 2010. CEO Gregg Steinhafel later apologized for his $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a political action committee that bolstered the campaign of antigay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and had ties to another antigay Republican, Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor and presidential aspirant. It also turned out that the company made several other contributions to other politicians who oppose LGBT rights.

In 2011, however, Steinhafel pledged to shareholders that Target would remain neutral in the marriage equality debate in Minnesota, where the company is based. It also started to contribute money to pro-LGBT organizations like Project 515, and Target has featured multiple same-sex couples in advertisements. Target has a 100 percent score on HRC's 2013 Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies on progress toward LGBT equality in the workplace.