Attorney General criticizes Target for Pride merchandise, alleges breach of duty to shareholders

By: - July 7, 2023 7:00 am

Pride Month apparel is seen on display at a Target store on June 06, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images.)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita criticized Target’s Pride campaign in a letter released Thursday, claiming the corporation is infringing on states’ ability to “safeguard citizens.”

The letter was signed by the attorney generals of six other states — Idaho, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina and Kentucky — and expresses legal concerns over Target’s “possible violation of fiduciary duties.” They are all Republicans.

“Transanity doesn’t sell,” Rokita said in a press release. “Let’s all unite around pride in America instead of falling into the trap of dividing along lines of identity politics.”

When asked about his authority on the topic, Rokita’s office referenced the letter, which says “As the chief legal officers of our States, we are charged with enforcing state laws protecting children and safeguarding parental rights.”

The Attorney General does not prosecute criminal cases involving obscenity and nothing in state law governing the office references parental rights.

In the letter, Rokita claims the $60 billion company, which has nearly 2,000 stores across the country, sold products that promoted “gender and sexual identity” among children. Rokita lists LGBTQ+ themed onesies, bibs and overalls, shirts labeled “Girls Gays Theys,” a shirt that features drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova and girls’ swimsuits with “tuck-friendly construction” and “extra crotch coverage.”

Rokita cites a National Review article for his claims, although the article only mentions the “tuck-friendly” swimsuits. That article links a Tweet from “Gays Against Groomers” that pictures the swimsuit; however, there is no indication the clothing is meant for a child. 

According to a Target spokesperson and the Target website, the store does not have a “tuck-friendly” swimsuit for children. 

Although Target has not released a statement about the letter yet, they reaffirmed their support for Pride Month in a statement May 24. 

“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. 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.”

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Rokita also criticizes Target’s use of Pride merchandise designed by Abprallen, a brand owned by a gay transgender man that features Pride-centric products. Some products include references to Satan, and others allude to violence, such as a pin of a guillotine labeled “homophobe headrest.” However, the merchandise Target sold did not contain references to Satan or violence, and Target pulled all products from the shelves in late May.

In the same sweep, Target removed other forms of Pride merchandise from stores, citing threats to employees. 

Rokita claims Target also sold products with “anti-Christian designs” such as pentagrams or horned skulls, but links a Reuters article with no mention of that claim. In fact, images showing Target selling these products were AI-generated — the actual products do not exist. 

The Attorney General goes on to criticize Target’s partnership with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN. Target has donated $2 million to the organization over 11 years, although it’s unclear if the corporation donated in 2023. 

Rokita claims the organization supports “secret gender transitions for kids” by advising schools to not report a child’s gender identity to their parents. Schools not reporting information about a student’s gender identity is relatively common, with organizations like the American Psychological Association recommending schools respect student privacy.

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Notably, Indiana passed a law last session requiring parental notification if a student requests to change their name or pronouns. 

Rokita added that the entire Pride campaign, which he said harmed Target’s stock price, shows the company’s neglect for its shareholders. 

While Target’s stock dropped in late May, whether or not it was entirely due to backlash over Pride merchandise is unclear. During Target’s drop in stocks, the S&P 500 Retail Index fell 7%, and other retailers like Walmart and Macy’s fell as well. 

Although Target has consistently put out Pride merchandise during June, they aren’t the only stores to do so. Kohls, Old Navy and Walmart all sold some form of Pride clothing, and other companies have supported or partnered with the LGBTQ+ community, such as Budweiser and Cracker Barrel. 

Government entities in Indiana also grapple with toeing the political line on Pride. Last month, the Department of Correction was the only state agency to publicly support Pride. Multiple local governments made their support clear, although some — like Westfield’s mayor removing a Pride post — got cold feet.

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Marissa Meador
Marissa Meador

Marissa studied political science and journalism at IU and worked at the Indiana Daily Student as a news editor and reporter. At the IDS, she's covered city government and breaking news.

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