A San Diego superior court judge Tuesday denied a Target Corp. motion to keep a grassroots group campaigning for marriage equality from gathering petition signatures outside its stores throughout California.
Judge Jeffrey Barton ruled that the right of free speech takes priority over Target's interests, refusing to temporarily remove the group Canvass for a Cause pending trial, according to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
He set a trial date for March 25.
In a statement to The Advocate on Thursday, a spokesperson for Target wrote: "In response to feedback from many guests, Target long ago established a solicitation policy at our stores nationwide. To provide a distraction-free shopping environment for our guests, we do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented. Target actively and consistently enforces its solicitation policy and, if necessary, takes legal action against solicitors who do not comply with requests to cease their activity. Our legal action was in no way related to the cause of the organization and was done so to be consistent with our long-standing policy of providing a distraction-free shopping experience by not permitting solicitors at our stores. Target has taken similar action against a number of organizations that represent a wide variety of causes and issues."
Daniel Brown, the executive team lead for assets protection for Target Corp., argued in court that Canvass for a Cause volunteers "become angry and aggressive" when customers say they don't support marriage equality.
He said when he warned volunteers that Target has a no-solicitation policy (the group accepts donations to help fight California's marriage ban), "they assert that they have a free speech right to engage in their behavior and have refused to leave Target's premises."
Tres Watson, executive director of Canvass for a Cause, told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News he was disappointed in Target for focusing on the marriage equality petitions in its complaint.
"Actions like this by an organization that has a history of funding groups opposed to LGBT equality like Target are unacceptable," he said. "The desire to protect our families should not be offensive to Target, or its patrons."
The Minnesota-based retail chain came under fire by LGBT activists last year when it was revealed Target had donated corporate funds to MN Forward, a political action committee that supported antigay candidate Tom Emmer in his failed 2010 run for governor of Minnesota.
On Tuesday a source close to Lady Gaga confirmed to The Advocate that the entertainer had dissolved her deal with Target over the chain's controversial political donations.
"She and Target didn't see eye to eye on Target's policy of political donations and how they affect the LGBT community," the source told The Advocate exclusively.
Representatives from Target did not respond to a request for comment by press time.