Randi Reitan and MoveOn deliver 260,000 petitions to Target

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel admitted yesterday in a letter to employees that he seriously underestimated the flak the company would get for its apparent hypocrisy in backing an anti-gay candidate for Minnesota governor. If the mea culpa was meant to calm anyone down, the message was lost on gay rights activists and MoveOn.org, who delivered 260,000 signed petitions to Target HQ demanding the company do more than offer just words.

You know the story by now: Target donated $150,000 to MNForward, which used to money to a cut an ad backing Republican Tom Emmer for governor. Gay rights activists were appalled at the news, because they had always viewed Target as a GLBT-friendly company. Loads of bad press and hurt feelings followed -- and open warfare erupted on Target's Facebook page -- as Republicans tried to cast the conflict as a matter of free speech.

"I have heard from many of you, and our team members, over the past week regarding Target's contribution to MN Forward, and I appreciate your engagement and candor, both of which clearly demonstrate your loyalty and passion for our company," Steinhafel wrote yesterday. "In situations like this, it is often difficult to find the right words, but I would like to respond with the same honesty you have shown me."

"While I firmly believe that a business climate conducive to growth is critical to our future, I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry," he said.

The Human Rights Campaign, which last week hammered Target in a full page ad in the Star Tribune, welcomed the CEO's contrition. But he said it didin't go far enough.

"Target can still make it right by making equivalent contributions to equality-minded organizations and by making clear the procedure by which they will evaluate potential contributions in the future to include issues of LGBT-equality," he said.

Among those showing up at Target's doorstep Friday was Randi Reitan, whose son is gay. Her protest video against the company became a viral hit on YouTube. She accompanied MoveOn's Bob Brereton, whose organization created and supported the petition drive that generated the signatures.

"As a shopper at Target, their contribution was in part my money, and it was being used to attack the civil rights of my son," Reitan said.

The protesters were met by Brad Wagner of Target's diversity team. He promised them their unhappiness wouldn't fall on deaf ears -- but denied them entrance to the building.

"What I can tell you is that going forward we are also committed to making sure we do things better, that we have a system set up for a vetting process as we make these contributions," Wagner said.

Here's Reitan's video:

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