Target sued by investor after anti-LGBTQ+ backlash to Pride collection

Man walks through a Target store display featuring LGBTQ+ Pride merch

US retail giant Target is being sued by an investor after an anti-LGBTQ+ customer backlash to its Pride merchandise.

Conservative legal organisation America First Legal (AFL) sued the retailer on Tuesday (8 August) on behalf of an investor, claiming Target had misstated its ability to monitor risk after it had to pull some Pride merchandise from shelves, Reuters reported.

AFL, founded by former Trump advisor Stephen Miller, filed the lawsuit in a Florida federal court, on behalf of investor Brian Craig, against Target, the company’s chief executive, Brian Cornell, and the board of directors.

Craig, who owns 216 Target shares, worth approximately $29,000 (£22,700), claimed that Target had not taken “social and political risks” into account, while focusing on its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals instead of considering any potential backlash from customers.

In the lawsuit, Craig wrote that Target’s DEI policies had allowed the retailer to “serve its divisive political and social goals, and ultimately lose billions”.

He is seeking damages after Target’s share price fell, which he claims was caused by the customer backlash.

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Several people protested against Target’s Pride merchandise. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In May, Target dropped its Pride 2023 collection, which featured “tuck-friendly” swimming suits, rainbow-themed accessories, and slogan T-shirts, including a popular design reading “Live, laugh, lesbian”. 

Despite that decision, stores faced harassment from right-wing campaigners, including internet troll and anti-LGTBQ extremist Ethan Schmidt-Crockett, who accused the store of “grooming”. He became infamous last year for saying he enjoyed hunting LGBTQ+ supporters in his free time.

In response to the backlash, Target made the decision to remove some items or hide displays at the back of their stores for the “safety and well-being” of staff and customers.

LGBTQ+ artists who collaborated with Target, as well as other members of the community, criticised Target for “caving” in to right-wing demands, and urged the retailer to restock the merchandise.

“I think it was anticipated that there would be pushback, I don’t think anybody anticipated that it would be quite this extreme,” said queer artist Erik C, who was commissioned to create some of the Pride items.

He added that while he was “incredibly excited” to work with Target, his designs were quickly “review bombed by conservatives giving it one-star reviews”.