MINNEAPOLIS -- A national group working to ban gay marriage has asked Minnesota's largest corporations to remain neutral on the issue.
The National Organization for Marriage sent letters to the state's 50 largest companies, as well as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, asking them to remain neutral on the marriage issue.
Gay marriage is already against the law in Minnesota, but voters will decide in November whether to place that ban in the state Constitution. The amendment would define marriage as solely between one man and one woman.
"The corporations all have customers and employees that come down on both sides," Jonathan Baker of NOM told KARE.
"They have customers and employees that want to support the traditional definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman, and customers and employees that would like to extend the definition of marriage to couples of the same gender."
The Target Corporation found itself taking some heat from opponents of gay marriage when it launched a pride tee-shirt campaign in honor of Gay Pride Month, which is June, selling a variety on designs online for $12.99 a piece.
"Target supports inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our business and has a long history of supporting the LGBT community through giving, volunteerism and event sponsorship and participation," Target spokesperson Molly Snyder told KARE.
"Target was pleased to be able to bring our guests products they wanted while, in turn, helping support the LGBT community through the donation of 100 percent of the purchase price to the Family Equality Council."
The Minnesota-based retail giant sold out the entire stock in less than a month, raising $120,000 for the Family Equity Council in Washington DC. Snyder said it was a limited time offer so the supply will not be replenished.
Baker said he still has questions about what Target's intentions were with the Pride Tee Shirt campaign, but he's focused now on the ballot issue here in Minnesota.
"What we're asking businesses to do is to create a work environment that welcoming to all of the employees. And they can do that through adopting a neutral stance over the Minnesota Marriage amendment."
In his letter to businesses, Baker pointed out that North Carolina voters recently approved a marriage amendment. He also warned of the hazards of "wading into a culture war" and cited the boycott against Starbucks for supporting gay marriage in Washington state.
But Tom Horner, a veteran public relations executive who ran for governor in 2010 as the Independence Party candidate, notes that Starbucks' corporate earnings has thrived recently.
Horner, who opposes the marriage amendment, said it will make sense to many businesses to be perceived as gay friendly, especially in the competition for young, educated professionals.
"A recent study showed the Twin Cities metropolitan area is about 5th or 6th in the country in attracting these kinds of workers," Horner told KARE. "Not just gays and lesbians, but all educated workers who want to live in a community that welcomes diversity, that embraces diversity."
He said business that go on the record as supporting gay marriage won't likely suffer much of a backlash, especially if they frame the issue in terms of drawing talented people in new emerging professions.
"I think that's the business stake," he said. "I think that's why businesses ought to get involved. It's not because it's the right the thing to do, the popular thing to do, but because it's a bottom line issue for businesses."
The last time Target made the news on the gay marriage issue was in 2010, when the company took heat for donating money to Minnesota Forward, a PAC that supported Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.
MN Forward was a pro-business, anti-tax advocacy group, but Emmer also was a staunch opponent of gay marriage and domestic partnership benefits for government employees.
Some gay equality groups called for a boycott on Target because of the company's contribution to the pro-Emmer group. But the issue faded fairly quickly.
"I really think that donation created more of an issue for Target's own employees, who wondered if the company was changing its stance of gay equality," Horner said.
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