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Target CEO Says Company Won't Back Down on Trans Bathroom Policy

Brian Cornell

Target is not backing down. In April the company confirmed that it would continue to allow transgender people to use the restroom that most closely aligns with their gender identity at all of its locations.

During an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, the company’s CEO, Brian Cornell, argued that — despite backlash from right-wing groups — Target did the right thing.

“We took a stance,” he said. “We’re going to continue to embrace our belief in diversity and inclusion, just how important that is to our company. But we’re also going to make sure our focus on safety is unwavering.”

To ensure that the well-being of all customers remains a priority, Cornell told CNBC that the store would be installing family bathrooms at every one of its 1,800 locations across the country. He said that the process of installing these facilities would take a few months. But as Cornell explains, Target already has family restrooms in 1,400 stores.

(RELATED: How Target Evolved Into an LGBT Rights Ally After a Boycott of Its Own)

Last month the big-box chain stated that it would be taking a stance against other legislation like House Bill 2, the controversial North Carolina law that effectively forces trans people to use the restroom (in government buildings) that corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth, not their gender identity. In a press release, Target promised that it would be providing inclusive bathroom access for all of its trans customers and employees.

“We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day,” the company stated. “We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”

Since that statement was released, other companies have followed Target’s lead by allowing trans people affirming restroom options. These include national chains like Starbucks, Saks, and Barnes and Noble.

Nonetheless, Target’s decision has been protested by conservative entities like Glenn Beck and the American Family Association, who claim that the policy opens the door to allowing men in women’s restrooms. On its website, the AFA states that this is “exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims.” The right-wing group since organized a petition to boycott the company, one reportedly signed by over a million people.

Cornell stated that their concerns were being heard, even while the company plans to stick to its core values. “We want to make sure we provide a welcoming environment for all of our guests,” he said. “One that is safe, one that is comfortable.”

Target’s customers, however, have little to worry about from transgender people in the first place. In the more than 200 localities across the country that allow trans folks to use the bathroom that most closely corresponds with their gender identity, there’s never been a single case of a transgender person attacking someone else. There have also been no reports of a cisgender person pretending to be trans to enter the bathroom of the opposite sex.

Cornell told CNBC that debates over inclusivity are familiar for the company. In the 1960s, Target became one of the first retailers to use black models in its advertising campaigns. According to Cornell, that choice wasn’t well-received by all groups. “We had a lot of tough feedback,” Cornell said, “But sitting here today, I know we made the right decision.”

Watch Brian Cornell's appearance on CNBC below.

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