Target is joining the chorus of corporate entities taking issue with North Carolina's controversial Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which critics have argued sanctions prejudice against members of the LGBT community.
The ubiquitous chain of retail stores has stated on their official company website that their employees and customers will be encouraged to use the restroom that "corresponds with their gender identity." The statement could be interpreted as act of defiance against the North Carolina law, which has been derisively referred to as a "bathroom bill" precisely because it bars trans people from using facilities that correspond with their identity.
"Inclusivity is a core belief at Target," they added. "It's something we celebrate."
While Republican Gov. Pat McCrory — who signed the North Carolina bill into law late last month — has said that legislators should consider some revisions to the bill, he has steadfastly stood by it, despite the fact that a number of companies and famous figures have said they will cease to do business in the state because of it. McCrory has seen his poll numbers take a significant hit amid the fallout. Meanwhile, Target's stance is the latest example of an uncharacteristically progressive bent from a huge corporate entity.
In 2014, after a rash of highly publicized mass shootings, Target formally changed its firearms policy to prevent armed customers from entering their locations. “We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members,” John Mulligan, interim chief executive officer of Target, said in a statement at the time.
In 2015 alone, they bowed to public pressure and raised the starting wage of their employees to $9 an hour (and in 2016, increased it to $10 an hour), they removed gender-based signs from their toys, and backed the Equality Act — which provided LGBT discrimination protections to citizens of their home state of Minnesota and around the country. The chain was also among several stores that agreed to stop selling merchandise featuring the Confederate flag following a national outcry over a racially-motivated massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
"It's fantastic to see a brand with the reach and visibility of Target make clear that treating transgender employees and customers with the same dignity and respect as everyone else is the right thing to do. Corporations like Target are becoming increasingly vocal opponents of measures designed to single out not just LGBT people, but particularly transgender people, for harm," Dan Rafter, a spokesman for the gay rights organization Freedom For All Americans, told MSNBC on Wednesday. "Statements like the one from Target this week are a reminder that at the end of the day, everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally."
Still, the company has also provoked plenty of ire from progressive groups over the years. For instance, in 2013, Target was taken to task for disproportionately making political donations to candidates who took anti-LGBT positions. And yet their moves as of late appear to have spooked some of their more conservative potential investors.
Last fall, Fox Business Channel devoted an entire segment to a viewer who was skittish about buying stock in Target because they are "paying too much attention to being politically correct."
Meanwhile, at least one 2016 contender has defended the controversial bill — Sen. Ted Cruz. During a town hall hosted by MSNBC earlier this month in Buffalo, New York., the Texas lawmaker said: “As the father of daughters, I’m not terribly excited about men being able to go alone into a bathroom with my daughters. And I think that’s a perfectly reasonable determination for the people to make.”
"This is a patently false lie that anti-LGBT opponents spread as one of their last means of codifying discrimination, and they continue to do so even though the facts aren't on their side," Rafter said. "The truth is, transgender people use restrooms for the same reason as everyone else — and they deserve the same privacy and modesty. In fact, 53 percent of transgender people report facing harassment in public places. This fabricated argument also completely distorts what it means to be transgender — a person's gender identity is one of their most deeply held, core senses of self. It's already illegal for anyone to enter any restroom with the intent of harming or harassing others, and nothing about any nondiscrimination measures will ever change that."