Target May Not Be a True Friend to LGBTs… But Is MoveOn?

I’ve been wary about MoveOn, the liberal behemoth activist network, for a very long time. A look at the group’s annual members’ polls explains why: Issues surrounding gay equality are consistently considered a low priority in the hearts and minds of most of the (mostly mainstream and definitely not what we think of as “progressive”) MoveOn faithful.

Most recently, the 2009 polling shows MoveOn members’ priorities:

Goal

1. Universal health care 64.9%
2. Economic recovery and job creation 62.1%
3. Build a green economy, stop climate change 49.6%
4. End the war in Iraq 48.3%
5. Improve public schools 21.6%
6. Restore civil liberties 16.8%
7. Hold the Bush Administration accountable 15.2%
8. Gay rights/LGBT equality 8.6%
9. Increase access to higher education 7.6%
10. Reform campaigns and elections 5.7%

Let me reiterate:  Only 8.6 percent of MoveOn’s membership considers equality a priority.  Boo, MoveOn members!

Now, the focus is on Target. The discount retailer, which claims to be gay-friendly, was caught making a specifically anti-gay political donation. Gay groups rightfully became outraged. MoveOn got involved, covered up the gay angle, and went after Target instead for attempting to buy an election. Let’s be clear: It appears the chain did attempt to buy the election, but why hide the gay issue? Why not note that Target’s CEO belongs to a church that extols attempts to “change” gays into heterosexuals?

The Awl has more on this:

Matt Zabel, Target’s new head of government affairs, and one of only three Target executives in charge of political donations, was for years the right hand man of aggressively anti-gay South Dakota politician John Thune. Target’s official political action committee (PAC) favored Thune in his victory over Tom Daschle in 2004—the same time that Zabel joined Target. No surprise that the year before hiring his chief of staff to control its political giving, Target’s PAC maxed out its donations to Thune, despite him being from outside Minnesota and being rabidly anti-gay rights.

Thune was reelected, and Zabel became a high-paid executive. Gay Minnesotans got a kinda’ nice Pride parade.

Target contributed to said parade. I guess the retail giant is trying to play on both sides of the fence;  gays and true allies are merely a part of the chain’s brand strategy. A Facebook friend of mine joked that Target is just trying to reach as many demographic groups as possible. Sadly, that appears to be truth, not humor.

Sadly (and not surprisingly), the Human Rights Campaign is also shucking and jiving, apparently in an effort not to offend anyone. More from the Awl:

HRC’s position on the Target debacle is spun as one of proaction, but really HRC’s involved because of a challenge to its corporation-patronizing Corporate Equality Index. If Target refuses to meet any HRC demands, the group’s CEI rankings will be meaningless, probably never again to return to respectfulness. Asked if, after being laughed off by Target, HRC might finally consider demoting the retailer’s CEI rating, HRC told us “there are a lot of considerations….”

Yet, when it comes to gay marriage, at least HRC admits its impotence. Despite being solely a GLBT equality activism organization, the HRC’s statement on gay marriage is depressingly pragmatic:

Only marriage can provide families with true equality. However, domestic partnerships and other forms of relationship recognition, though limited, provide important and tangible protections.

This businesslike approach to civil rights is evident in the HRC’s own rotting gumbo of compromise. The HRC PAC giving history contains a slew of names like Leahy, Harkin, Dodd, Mikulski and Biden. All “yea” votes to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a still-standing federal recognition of marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The HRC’s giving history even includes the Log Cabin Republican PAC, which, a year after receiving HRC’s money, gave directly to Rudy “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is Okay” Giuliani.

Do read the entire story on The Awl. It’s an unfortunate reality that sometimes we have to take help where we can find it. But it behooves us to make sure to investigate the true motivations of those who say they are our friends — especially when we find them playing footsie with those who would keep people trapped in the hell that is second-class citizen status. At the very least, we should expect — no, demand — integrity from our associates.

UPDATE: An activist friend of mine suggests spreading the word about the scary Republican Tom Emmer’s truly progressive gubernatorial opponent, former Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota. Mark supports marriage equality, jobs creation, health care for all, progressive taxes, and more.  Check out his campaign and tell a friend!

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