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The Target LGBTQ merchandise controversy explained

California Governor Gavin Newsom is the latest public figure to chime in on the Target LGBTQ merchandise controversy. Here are the details....

California Governor Gavin Newsom is the latest public figure to chime in on the Target LGBTQ merchandise controversy. Here are the details....
Stephen PingryAP

In 2015, when the US Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was protected as a constitutional right, the public was largely in favor of same-sex marriage. A few years earlier, in 2012, researchers at Pew estimated that nearly half of voters were in favor. In the years following the legalization of same-sex marriage, support for marriage equality has risen rapidly to around seventy-one percent of voters.

Over the last year, there has been a substantial rise in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that has been particularly focused on attacking the rights of transgender people. Increasingly conservative lawmakers have used their legislative power to uphold the gender binary of man and woman as synonymous with sex (i.e., man equals male and woman equals female).

Conservative lawmakers have launched a full-scale culture war against those who object to their understanding of the relationship between biological sex and gender expression. And now, companies that deviate from these interpretations are subject to vitriol and violence from their supporters. Anheuser Bush, the company that produces and distributes Bud Light, has come under harsh criticism after partnering with Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender TikTok star who has amassed a following of more than thirteen million people.

This week, the national department store Target found itself at the center of the conservative outrage machine over the store’s pride collection. Although not all of the over 850 pride-related items will be removed from store shelves and racks, some books and clothing items will be taken off due to reports of shopper frustration and violence against sales associates. The Hill reported that one of the items sacked is a ‘tuck friendly’ bathing suit designed with the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming adults in mind to help them feel comfortable in swimwear. Reuters reported that other items declared overly controversial include children’s books that discuss being non-binary and calendars with the saying “queer all year.”

In the South, where the backlash has been strongest, Target moved the pride-themed merchandise to the back of the store.

Target voices concerns surrounding worker safety

For Target, the personal safety of their employees has been cited as the reason they “are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

The safety of workers should be the priority of any company, not just Target. It is nevertheless an extremely stark warning that the physical safety of workers is being threatened because a private business is selling merchandise some customers see as inconsistent with their ideological perspective.

Gavin Newsom chimes in

California Governor Gavin Newsom came out strongly against Target’s decision, saying that the company is “selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists is a real profile in courage.

Gov. Newsom warned that caving to the demands and violence of a minority represents “a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country.”


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