Target has spent the past two years fighting backlash over a political donation they said was about the business climate in Minnesota triggered a nationwide boycott from gay rights activists. Now, the company is launching a pride promotion in the month of June.
The retailer has pledged more than $100,000 to a group supporting marriage equality -- but rather than making a direct corporate donation, Target is essentially passing along donations from customers by connecting online T-shirt sales to a month-long promotion.
It works like this: Customers buy a shirt from a special collection, and then all the money from those sales will go to a group that supports LGBT families.
The LGBT community fought back against Target by refusing to shop there after the company donated $150,000 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Now, with up to $120,000 pledged to the Family Equality Council, the hope is those boycotters may reconsider reopening their wallets.
"I think that maybe the donation to Minnesota Forward and the backlash really served as a catalyst for employees inside of Target to have their voices heard," said Dot Belstler, of Pride Twin Cities.
A Target spokesperson says there is no link between this donation and the Emmer gaff -- instead saying it reflects Target's ongoing corporate commitment to diversity, but PR pro Jon Austin says that's a wise statement to make.
"The last thing you want to do is remind people of what you did two years ago and how you stepped in it," he said.
So far, it seems the promotion may be changing perceptions and putting the company back in a positive light.
"If the end result is marriage equality, cool," said Carl Bartel. "What you've done in the past doesn't matter. It's what's now -- and right now we need help."
Target launched the line of pride shirts on Sunday, and plans to donate 100 percent of the sale price to the Family Equality Council through the month of June -- or as long as supplies last.
For 40 years, the Minneapolis Pride Parade has been a rallying point for gay rights, and organizers say Target has long been a supporter of their cause. That's why they don't' think the shirt sales are just a publicity stunt.
"I think the T-shirts are great. I think they're recognizing their community in who their customer is," said Belstler.
There are 10 different designs available for sale online.