SAN DIEGO (AP) — A judge ruled Thursday that a San Diego pro-gay marriage group can continue canvassing outside of Target stores in California, but the group’s volunteers must stay 30 feet away from store entrances and canvass at just one entrance at a time.

The Minnesota-based retail giant had sought an injunction barring the activists from every outlet in the state, alleging they harass customers by cornering them near store entrances to discuss gay marriage, solicit donations and collect signatures on petitions.

Rights advocates have warned that the legal battle between Target and Canvass For A Cause could further damage the retailer’s already strained relations with the gay and lesbian community.

Canvass For A Cause director Tres Watson called Thursday’s ruling a win for not only his organization, but also for free speech.

“I think this is a victory for every American that cherishes our fundamental values,” he said.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton said some Target stores may fall under California’s law that considers shopping centers to be public forums. Also, canvassing over the last year occurred mainly without incident and Target failed to demonstrate that customers were being harassed, he said.

“Target has not met its burden to show that its blanket policy to ban all solicitors at all stores in California is proper,” he wrote.

The corporation has said at least eight Target stores in the San Diego area have received more than a dozen complaints daily since canvassers started working the locations in October 2010. The activists have refused to leave when asked politely and shown the company’s policy prohibiting “expressive activity” on its property, Target said.

During a court hearing last month in San Diego, Barton asked Target’s Los Angeles-based attorney David McDowell why the company didn’t present testimony from customers who the company said had complained.

McDowell said the testimony could have been obtained, but he didn’t think it was necessary since the complaints weren’t the central issue. The case was about Target’s right to enforce its rules on its land, he said.

“The question is Target’s property right and its right to exclude,” McDowell said.

Target Corp. said in a statement Thursday that the legal action was “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,” the company said.

Barton warned the San Diego group to be respectful and to not block the flow of traffic. The restriction to canvass at just one entrance at a time was to ensure that customer access wasn’t impeded, he said in the ruling.

Watson said the constraints wouldn’t affect the group’s work because volunteers don’t follow people into stores or block store entrances.

Target was seen as an ally of the gay and lesbian community before it made a $150,000 donation to a business group backing Minnesota Republican candidate Tom Emmer, an opponent of gay marriage who lost last year’s governor’s race to Democrat Mark Dayton.

The company later apologized for the hurt feelings and tried to repair its image by creating a committee to help scrutinize its decisions on donations.

Target 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.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (36)
  1. Sally says:

    I could care less but I don’t stand outside Target bothering customers asking them to support heterosexual marriage? Why is this OK?

    1. Ben says:

      You don’t bother people about supporting heterosexual marriage because heterosexual marriage is legal. You don’t need to. When people put their nose into things that don’t concern them (like deciding that gays can’t marry, even though it doesn’t affect them in the least), they’re going to deal with the reaction.

      1. Tobi says:

        If you want to call your marriage “gay marriage”, I am ok with it. But dont dehumanize my “marriage” by letting gays call “gay marriage” marriage. Its not the same.

        1. Mark says:

          Dehumanize your “Marriage”? Oh, you mean upset your religious beliefs which we must all bow down to. Does that mean atheists, Jews, Hindus and Muslims should have to get different types of marriages as well? I mean us atheists don’t even get married in the eyes of god, yet the state recognizes it.

          1. Pablo says:

            Where does Tobi, talk about religion, he doesn’t. So why does this become a religous things. You have some issues Mark, maybe you shouldn’t put words in peoples mouths. He didn’t say “got must recognize your marriage”. Tone down all the self-righteous bs.

            1. Pablo says:

              that would be *God must recognize

              1. Paul says:

                Pablo, would you like a lesson on inference and interpreting posts? It’s obvious he was referencing his religious view of marriage.

          2. pat says:

            Hey Mark where do you live I woiuld like to come over and stand 30 feet from your door and bellow at you about my rights.

            1. Ben says:

              What rights of yours are in question? If there was a legitimate injustice, I could get behind that.

        2. Paul says:

          Tobi, how does it “dehumanize” your marriage? Seriously, are you that insecure about your own marriage that you can’t open your mind up to gay people being married? Doesn’t “divorce” and “adultery” dehumanize your marriage more?

    2. Two-shoes says:

      Tom Emmer is pro-life. What does that say about gay people who are protesting Target giving money to his campaign?

      1. max says:

        I’m not sure what your point is. Are you arguing that gay people against Tom Emmer must generally be pro-choice? And if so, is that relevant?

        1. Three-shoes says:

          Target donated money to a company which supported Emmer. Target supported Emmer because of his business practices. The protesters are now attacking Target because Target essentially supported an anti gay marriage candidate, but that is not why Target supported Emmer.

          I now play the same game the protesters are playing: they don’t support Emmer because of gay marriage, so essentially they are not pro-life.

          (Not saying all gay’s, just the protesters).

          Canvass For A Cause director Tres Watson stated, “I think this is a victory for every American that cherishes our fundamental values.”

          So your fundamental values go against what Emmer supports? (anti gay marriage, pro life).

          1. max says:

            Thanks for clarifying. I do see your point.

            I think the reason that people are so worked up is that Target has styled itself as a gay-friendly company, while Emmer is clearly anti-gay. Of course, corporations can donate to whomever they choose, and citizens/advocacy groups can respond accordingly.

    3. Victim Du Jour says:

      Gays can get civil Unions, and in many states fall under the same exact domestic partnership rights as Marraige.

      Gays aren’t able to produce children, mostly everyone is fussing over a word, so “BLTers” can sue religion, even though the US Constitution says religious freedom.

  2. jimmy says:

    Target brought this on themselves with their CEOs greed and need to control Politicians. When will enough be enough for him.

    1. me says:

      Yeah, because it’s all about “rights.” What about their right as a corperation to donate to whoever they want? Oh thats right, if your beliefs don’t fall into the liberal agenda then your rights don’t matter.

    2. John's says:

      Geez, donating $500k to the children in Japan ravaged by the earthquake is SOOOO greedy.

      Typical ignorance jimmy, isn’t it?

  3. Jamie MacBain says:

    common Target, don’t be a hater

  4. dphilips says:

    WHAT A BUNCH OF BIGOTED HILLBILLY RUBES! Minnesota has got to be
    in the top 10 of the most backward states in the nation

    1. captainobvious says:

      dphilips, I know you lost your house by overfinancing and your job, so lets make today the day you go look for a new job its time to stop stealing from us working people

    2. It is a sickness says:

      Target needs to hire Hells Angels to guard the front of the store and beat down any queen on the property!

  5. jason says:

    Just say they are tresspassing.

    1. Mark says:

      Learn to read. They said because many Target occupy PUBLIC forums by law in CA, you can’t prohibit protestors. IE it isn’t private property at all. I guess you would like to ban free speech in public areas. Seems a little un-American to me to hate free speech so much.

  6. M. says:

    This opens them up to being harassed by other idiot solicitors and Dbag activists with nothing better to do with their time than bother paying customers.

    I can see that private property laws mean absolutely nothing to this turd of a judge! What do you expect from a CA judge, though?

    1. me says:

      What would you expect from the Socialist Repubulic of California.

      1. M. says:

        I know full well; I grew up in the SRC, unfortunately.

  7. Get Real says:

    This is just stupid. Why should Target be forced to allow someone on their property?

    I agree with M. Obviously CA judges do not respect companies who pay property taxes. Rather, they side on the liberal activists who want their voices heard wherever they can.

    Should I now be allowed to protest this protest on a gay person’s front lawn? Sounds fair and right to me, and I will stay 30 feet away.

    1. max says:

      It’s because, as the article states, CA law treats shopping centers as public forums. I am 110% in favor of gay marriage, and I also believe that private property owners should not have to allow canvassers on their property. But in this case, the canvassers are supported by state law. I think the ruling was a fair compromise.

    2. Mark says:

      Read it again. It is the LAW in CA that such shopping areas are PUBLIC forums. That means it is not private. Your home is private, the sidewalk is not. You cannot kick me off your sidewalk. If you don’t like the law, fine, but for now it is the law and the courts are enforcing it.

      1. M. says:

        “Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton said some Target stores may fall under California’s law that considers shopping centers to be public forums.”

        I see the word “may” in there, not “do”. I think they judge should have clarified that before ruling in favor of the mob.

        It isn’t even about gay rights. It’s all about private property rights (or lack thereof) and how the state defines them.

        This is just one more reason why NOT to open a business in CA. You will have no rights as an owner in that silly, silly state. Statist morons can do whatever they please out there, it seems.

        I sure am glad I don’t live out there anymore and can definitely see why all of my family wants out as well.

  8. Norge says:

    WCCO is again censoring its posts if they don’t like the political content, so let me re-phrase my question as to why WCCO and CBS aren’t reporting the lose of the liberal darling candidate for judge in WS. The same one they have been shilling for over the past week..the one that was going to undo Walkers govenorship and shift the tide back to union thugocracy. Could it be that they are in denial…or waiting for votes to be found in the trunk of a car, or are they crying in their lattes, and plotting revenge via slander and lies for their puppet masters. More work to do, now on to AFSCME in MN next!!

  9. pablo says:

    Leave it to California, these protesters are idiots, Target donated money to both sides. The libs decided that Target should only donate money to benefit them, and now they are crying about it. Gays should be able to marry whoever they want, but Target, should be able to give money to who they want.

    1. Mark says:

      Target CAN give money to whoever they want and anyone can feel free to be upset about it. Free speech means you get to say what you want, not you are free to have no one disagree or argue with what you say and do.

  10. Juan says:

    The protesters think “We should be able to marry whoever we want and be on whoevers’ property we want.”

    Get real. You want rights, yet you strip a taxpaying business of theirs because they gave money to someone who gave money to someone who opposes a couple of things and supports a few other things.

    Tom Emmer is pro-life. What does this say about gay people who are protesting Target giving money to his campaign?

  11. Joy says:

    I’ll be bringing my pepper spray to Target from now on. I don’t feel safe being approached by anyone these days, especially if I have my kids with me. Why don’t they hold up a sign explaining who they are, and why they are in front of Target? That way interested patrons can approach them. It’s a win-win because unintererested patrons won’t feel harrassed and the organization can make their pitch to those who are open to their ideas.

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