Judge: CA Gay Rights Group Can Canvass at Target

A San Diego court ruled that activists from Canvass for a Cause must stay 30 feet away from Target's doors and can only canvass at one entrance at a time-but it denied Target's request to prohibit them from canvassing altogether.

A judge in California on Thursday dealt Target Corporation a blow by denying its request to ban San Diego-based gay rights group Canvass for a Cause from canvassing at stores in California.

Target sued the gay rights organization in the Superior Court of California in San Diego early last month.

Judge Jeffrey Barton's order grants in part and denies in part Target's request for an injunction. It requires Canvass for a Cause volunteers to remain at least 30 feet away from Target's doors and allows the group to canvass near only one of each store's entrances at a time-but it does not prevent the group from canvassing altogether.

“To provide a distraction-free shopping environment for our guests, Target's long-standing policy is that we do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented,” Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson on Friday wrote in an e-mailed statement. “Our legal action in California against Canvass for a Cause is in no way related to the cause of the organization.”

The judge wrote in his order that the 30-foot stipulation will ensure that customers can freely access Target. “Canvass for a Cause shall ensure that its canvassers not harass, follow, stalk, or block movements of Target's employees, management, or customers,” he added.

But the judge also said that Target did not provide sufficient evidence that its customers were being harassed and did not identify how much money it believes to have lost as a result of the canvassing.

The retailer claimed in its lawsuit that the gay rights canvassers had been “particularly aggressive towards Target's guests” and that the stores receive complaints daily. The company said that it was attempting to enforce a policy through which it prohibits all forms of solicitation “regardless of the message or activities of the solicitor.”

In fact, the company told Twin Cities Business in March that it has taken similar actions against other organizations, including churches and groups that advocate for a variety of other causes.

Canvass for a Cause on Thursday wrote on its Facebook page that the judge's order represents”a win, not just for the LGBT community, but for anyone who cherishes fundamental American values like free speech and participation in the democratic process.”

Target previously came under fire from gay rights activists following a political donation to MN Forward, a group that backed then-Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who opposes gay marriage. The company's CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized for the effect of the donation and Target later revised its donation policy.

In a statement sent to Twin Cities Business, Target documented a long history of its contributions to and partnerships with LGBT organizations. For example, the company said that it has for many years supported Twin Cities Pride, and it has received multiple awards for its diverse work force. The company also highlighted its domestic benefits policy and its LGBT Business Council-a group led by Target employees to help foster an inclusive workplace.

Target is Minnesota's second-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $65.4 billion in 2009. The company reported revenue of $67.4 billion in 2010.