Attorney General James Calls on Target to Support the LGBTQ+ Community
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James joined a group of 15 attorneys general in calling on Target to support inclusivity and reject anti-LGBTQ+ hate, intimidation, and discrimination. In a letter sent to the national retail chain, the coalition addresses Target’s recent decision to remove certain Pride-related merchandise from its stores amid an increasing number of politically-motivated attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans. Attorney General James and the coalition of attorneys general express their commitment to protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and their concern regarding Target’s recent decision. The coalition’s action follows a letter Attorney General James sent earlier this month urging Target to reinstall the Pride merchandise removed from stores in response to backlash from anti-LGBTQ+ customers.
“Target’s decision to remove certain Pride merchandise in response to hateful backlash is wrong,” said Attorney General James. “As state legislatures nationwide are attacking the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ individuals, we must be unwavering and unapologetic in supporting the LGBTQ+ community. During Pride month and beyond, I will always fight to ensure that LGBTQ+ New Yorkers — and Americans — can live and shop as their true selves without fear of harassment and intimidation.”
The attorneys general acknowledge that Target is concerned with keeping 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 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 in recent years. State legislatures across 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 accusations that LGBTQ+ individuals seek to abuse or convert children.
Against this backdrop, Pride merchandise like Target’s is an important way to demonstrate support for LGBTQ+ people nationwide, and to show 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 certain Pride merchandise, even when motivated by an understandable desire to protect workers, sends the wrong message: that those who engage in hateful and disruptive conduct can cause large corporations to succumb to their bullying, and that they have the power to determine when and where LGBTQ+ consumers can feel comfortable and protected.
In New York and many other states, the law supports Target’s efforts to protect its staff and customers in the face of any hate-based intimidation, harassment, threats, or attacks. The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation on the basis of several protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
Joining Attorney General James in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Minnesota, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Attorney General James has long been a leader in fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Last month, she co-led a multistate coalition in submitting comments in support of robust anti-discrimination protections for transgender students at the federal level. In April 2023, Attorney General James called out Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for violating public university students’ right to privacy over his request for information on those receiving gender-affirming care. In March 2023, following a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-drag protests, rhetoric, and policies, Attorney General James hosted a first-of-its-kind Drag Story Hour Read-A-Thon for families in New York City. Last December, Attorney General James led a multi-state coalition of attorneys general to support equal access to gender-affirming care in West Virginia. In November 2022, Attorney General James led a coalition of attorneys general to support transgender students seeking to participate in sex-segregated school sports consistent with their gender identity in Indiana. Attorney General James has led or co-led coalitions of attorneys general to challenge policies prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms which correspond with their gender identity in Indiana, Florida, and Virginia.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) protects the civil rights of all New Yorkers and promotes equal justice under the law. If an individual witnesses or experiences an act of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination or any unlawful discrimination, they are encouraged to contact OAG’s Civil Rights Bureau by submitting a confidential complaint online or calling 212-416-8250.