Hundreds of LGBTQ+ groups demand Target restock Pride merch: ‘The right thing to do’

Pride collection in Target store

More than 200 pro-LGBTQ+ groups have called on Target to restock its Pride merchandise amid a backlash from right-wing “extremist groups”, which saw the store remove displays.

On 22 May, Target confirmed that Pride merchandise in southern states would be moved to the back of some stores, and removed entirely from others, following a backlash from shoppers and right-wing activists.

In response, groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLAAD and GLSEN have urged Target and businesses like Anheuser-Busch to “reject and speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ extremism going into Pride month”. 

Bud Light, brewed by Anheuser-Busch, faced a customer boycott over its collaboration with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney in April.

The coalition of LGBTQ+ groups issued a three-part demand, calling on Target to release a public statement “reaffirming their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community” within 24 hours, put Pride merchandise back on the sales floor and online, and ensure safety of its staff, who have faced harassment from customers. 

‘Critical that Target champions equity and inclusion’

A joint statement published by the organisations claimed that opposition to Target and Bud Light’s inclusivity was organised by “extremist groups” in a bid to stop “LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation, silence our allies and make our community invisible”. 

You may like to watch

The statement went on to say: “When values of diversity, equity and inclusion are tested, businesses must defend them unequivocally. Doubling down on your values is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business… it’s critical that Target champions equity and inclusion as it has for over a decade.” 

In May, right-wing commentators Michael Knowles and Matt Walsh admitted that the calls to boycott brands over inclusivity are intended to persuade brands to end support for LGBTQ+ people by turning Pride collaborations “toxic”.

Queer artist Erik C, who designed some of the items for Target’s latest Pride collection, told PinkNews he wasn’t informed that some of his creations would be pulled from shelves or moved to the back of stores.

He urged those criticising Target to help by supporting LGBTQ+ community-driven designers, as well as ensuring the safety of queer people.

Erik Carnell
Erik C is a UK-based designer whose work was included in Target’s Pride collection. (Credit: Erik Carnell/Instagram)

Target has released one statement following the controversy, saying threats to staff sense of safety resulted in the removal of Pride merchandise.

The statement, released on 24 May, added: “Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride month and throughout the year.” 

The company’s chief executive, Brian Cornell, defended the retailer’s commitment to inclusion and LGBTQ+ representation while speaking to the Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, stating that inclusion helps the brand drive sales. 

Calls for brands to stand behind the queer community follow the HRC issuing its first-ever “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ people in the US.

The warning comes amid more than 76 anti-LGBTQ+ bills having been signed into law in the US this year alone, more than any other year on record.

Please login or register to comment on this story.