- Office of the Attorney General
Media Contact for Attorney General Campbell Co-Leads Call for Target To Support LGBTQ+ Community
Thomas Dalton, Deputy Press Secretary
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell co-led a group of 15 state attorneys general calling on Target to support inclusivity and to reject anti-LGBTQ+ hate, intimidation and discrimination.
The letter, sent to national retail chain Target during Pride Month, comes in response to Target’s recent decision to remove certain Pride-related merchandise from its stores and amid an increasing number of politically motivated attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans. In the letter, AG Campbell and her fellow attorneys general expressed their commitment to protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and their concern in response to Target’s recent decision.
“We can never allow violence and intimidation to set back the march for social progress and LGBTQ+ equality, but Target’s decision to pull pride products from the shelves sends the message that they can,” said AG Campbell. “Pride means standing firm alongside our LGBTQ+ fellow Americans and fighting for their rights in the face of bigotry and hate.”
The attorneys general also acknowledge that Target hopes to keep its staff members and customers safe from anti-LGBTQ+ harassment, vandalism and other criminal acts. The letter encourages Target to reach out to responsible authorities, including the co-signed state attorneys general, to help address any anti-LGBTQ+ threats and harassment in Target stores.
LGBTQ+ Americans have faced an increasing number of politically motivated attacks over the past two years. A number of legislatures around the country have adopted laws barring public schools from discussing LGBTQ+ identity, limiting gender-affirming care, prohibiting transgender individuals from using bathrooms or playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity, and restricting drag performances. At the same time, the LGBTQ+ community has also increasingly been targeted by harassment and hate, including escalating threats of violence and a spike in baseless and pernicious accusations that LGBTQ+ individuals seek to abuse or convert children.
Against this backdrop, Pride merchandise like Target’s is an important way for LGBTQ+ people to see that they enjoy considerable support and that loud and intimidating fringe voices and bullies do not represent the views of society at large. For this reason, the attorneys general are concerned that Target’s decision to respond to bullying, intimidation, and destruction in their stores by pulling some Pride merchandise, even when motivated by an understandable and laudable desire to protect workers, sends the wrong message: that those who engage in hateful and disruptive conduct can cause even large corporations to succumb to their bullying, and that they have the power to determine when LGBTQ+ consumers will feel comfortable in Target stores—or anywhere in society.
In Massachusetts and many other states, the law can support Target’s efforts to protect its staff and customers in the face of any hate-based intimidation, harassment, threats, or attacks. The Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law assigns liability not just to the owners or operators of those accommodations, but to any individual—including other customers or members of the public—who discriminate against others’ use and enjoyment of those accommodations on the basis of a protected characteristic like sexual orientation or gender identity. Similarly, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act empowers the Commonwealth to seek injunctive relief against anyone who interferes with others’ constitutional and statutory rights by means of threats, intimidation, or coercion.
The multistate letter was co-led by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and Minnesota and joined by the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.