Target CEO Brian Cornell has now spoken publicly about the backlash the company experienced after releasing a statement declaring that transgender individuals shopping at the retail giant can use whichever bathroom corresponds with their gender identity. Among that backlash is an online petition by the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based religious non-profit organization founded by First United Methodist pastor Donald E. Wildmon.
Thus far, that petition has received 1.2 million signatures. It argued that “Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?”
Target’s original statement read, in part:
We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination.
In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.
Cornell, appearing Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” confirmed the company would not be reversing its policy. He called to mind the civil rights movement of the 1960s by evoking Target’s past in using African American models in its advertising when it was socially unpopular to do so.
“We’ve had a long history of embracing diversity and inclusion,” Cornell said. “A couple of weeks ago, one of our team members sent me a note reminding me that if we went back to the mid-60s, our company was one of the very first to use African American models in their advertising. And back then, you know, it wasn’t well received. We had a lot of tough feedback, but sitting here today, we know we made the right decision.”