Taking a page from the old Tom Petty Handbook, Target CEO Brian Cornell has officially determined that the retailer will not back down on its inclusive bathroom policy.
The tempest in the Target tea kettle blew up in the wake of Target's announcement that customers shopping in their store would be free to use the bathroom that corresponded to their gender identity (as opposed to the gender listed on their birth certificate, which is a contentious standard that several states are now fighting with the federal government over).
Target's stance in favor of equality for transgendered consumers has sparked a backlash and online petition from the American Family Association. The Mississippi-based religious nonprofit is headed by First United Methodist pastor Donald E. Wildman.
The petition and its 1.2 million signatures argue that “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims."
Target’s does not buy that argument, releasing the following statement:
We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination.
In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.
Cornell buttressed that message on a mid-week CNBC appearance during which he affirmed there would be no reversing its policy.
“We’ve had a long history of embracing diversity and inclusion,” Cornell said. “A couple of weeks ago, one of our team members sent me a note reminding me that if we went back to the mid-'60s, our company was one of the very first to use African American models in their advertising. And back then, you know, it wasn’t well received. We had a lot of tough feedback, but sitting here today, we know we made the right decision.”
He further noted:
“What’s been lost in this story is the fact that, what we also talked about, is that the vast majority of our stores — actually over 1,400 of our stores — already have a family restroom,” Cornell said. “And we’re committed over the next few months to make sure every one of our stores has that option, because we want our guests to be welcomed in our stores.”
Cornell also noted that safety remains a priority for Target.
“We took a stance, and we’re going to continue to embrace our belief of diversity and inclusion, just how important that is to our company, but we’re also going to make sure our focus on safety is unwavering,” Cornell said.
Target has also rejected (though, according to the AFA, politely) the suggestion that Target created gender neutral bathrooms for trans community members and those who just want to use the bathroom alone.
In a statement on its website, the AFA claimed one of its members met with Target executives on Wednesday, asking them to create a unisex bathroom “for the trans community and for those who simply like using the bathroom alone.”
The AFA — in its post on Target's rejection of their suggestion — also encouraged members to make $5 cash "tax deductible" donations to continue to spread the word on the bathroom policy for those who have not heard. So even if they didn't get their way, they did get a fundraising opportunity.