Target Corp. recently became the first national retailer to declare that its customers would be welcome to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. This simple extension of human rights, which most know simply recognizes what has been going on all along, has earned the company the wrath of the American Family Association (AFA), a fundamentalist Christian organization that opposes same-sex marriage, pornography and abortion.
The Mississippi-based association says it has gathered more than 500,000 signatures in less than a week from those pledging to boycott Target stores until the policy is changed. To its credit, Target says it intends to stay the course, both for its customers and employees. Minnesotans should be proud that one of its leading corporate citizens is willing to face some risk to do the right thing. Many Target stores include single-stall bathrooms that allow any customer complete privacy. Such rooms are becoming more common in stores and businesses and may soon render much of this discussion moot.
In the meantime, 10 states — Minnesota among them — are contemplating bills that could make it a crime for transgender individuals to choose bathrooms based on their gender identity. Tellingly, only one, North Carolina, has actually passed such a law, and that state has lost business and tourism. Similar legislation has failed in Virginia, Tennessee and the AFA’s home state of Mississippi. The 10 states should do more than let their bills die. They should firmly reject them.
Not all businesses will choose to make a formal statement about bathroom policy. In such places, transgender individuals will do what they’ve always done — use the facility of their choice and hope that no one seeks them out to make an issue of it. Target has chosen to lead on this issue, and it deserves the open support and praise of those who would see a society where individuals are not humiliated over something as simple as using a bathroom. On its corporate website, the company has posted its reasoning, which says in part, “We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination and treated equally. … Everyone deserves to feel like they belong.”