The retailing giant Target came under fire last year for its donations to run ads supporting an anti-gay rights candidate in Minnesota. Target insists that it is not anti-gay and has contributed to gay and lesbian organizations, but as recently as this month, concerns about last year's incident caused Lady Gaga to cancel an exclusive deal for Target to sell a special deluxe edition of her upcoming album.
Given this background, it seems the last thing Target might want would be to stir up more trouble for itself. And yet now the firm is seeking a restraining order against a grassroots California group that has been lobbying for same-sex marriage outside eight of its San Diego-area stories.
The company says that customers have been complaining the lobbying makes them feel uncomfortable and that the activists have refused to leave even when told the company's policy against solicitation. It insists that it is not singling out gay-rights supporters but has regularly acted against groups which impinge on its ability to provide a "distraction-free shopping experience"
"Target long ago established a solicitation policy at our stores nationwide," the firm explained in a statement, "We do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented."
During a hearing Friday at the San Diego County Superior Court, Target's attorney argued that "The question is Target's property right and its right to exclude."
The lawyers for Canvass for a Cause argued in response that "sidewalks and areas outside stores such as Target have been considered by courts to be public domain for free speech." They insisted that "Target is taking action because it does not agree with the group's message about gay marriage."
Canvass for a Cause, a progressive non-profit which was founded a year ago in reaction to California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, has taken on projects "ranging from marriage equality, DADT, to cannabis law reform."