SAN DIEGO (WCCO/AP) — A judge in California says he will issue a ruling next week in a lawsuit filed by Minneapolis-based Target Corp., against a San Diego pro-gay marriage group. Target wants the group to stop canvassing outside California stores.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the activists from every outlet in the state. Target claims Canvass For A Cause harasses customers by cornering them near store entrances to discuss gay marriage, solicit donations and collect signatures on petitions.
“Target in the court filings made us out to be these militant homosexual activists aggressively blocking shoppers,” said Canvass For A Cause Exec. Dir. Tres Watson on the Michele Tafoya Show on WCCO radio.
WCCO’s Michele Tafoya Interviews Tres Watson
The group is demonstrating at stores like Target because of the foot traffic.
“We’re doing the most democratic thing possible, which is engaging people to have conversations about the political process in places where they are at,” Watson explained.
Target insists it remains committed to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and its lawsuit has nothing to do with the political agenda of Canvass For A Cause.
During a court hearing Friday in San Diego, Target attorney David McDowell told Judge Jeffrey Barton the case is about Target’s right to enforce its rules on its land.
“The question is Target’s property right and its right to exclude,” McDowell said.
Barton had asked McDowell why the company did not present testimony from customers complaining about the activists. McDowell said Target could get such testimony but he did not think that was necessary since it’s not the central issue.
Bryan W. Pease, an attorney for Canvass For A Cause, argued that sidewalks and areas outside stores such as Target have been considered by courts to be public domain for free speech.
He said Target is taking action because it does not agree with the group’s message about gay marriage.
Volunteers are trained daily on being professional and polite, Watson said, and their aim is to educate the public about the rights of gays and lesbians.
Target was seen as an ally of the gay and lesbian community before it gave money to MN Forward, which supported Tom Emmer. He lost last year’s governor’s race to Democrat Mark Dayton.
Target later said it was sorry for the hurt feelings and tried to repair its public relations damage by creating a committee to help it better scrutinize decisions regarding financial donations.
The company also negotiated a deal with Lady Gaga to sell a special edition of her upcoming album in a partnership Gaga said was tied to their “reform,” supporting the gay community and making up for past mistakes. The singer cancelled the deal a few weeks ago.
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