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Trial in Target lawsuit against same-sex marriage group to start in San Diego County

March 25, 2011 | 11:31 am

A judge was expected to hear arguments Friday in a lawsuit by retail giant Target against a same-sex marriage group that has been canvassing for petition signatures outside several of its San Diego County stores.

At issue is whether Target’s broad-based, no-solicitation policy violates the free-speech rights of activists from Canvass for a Cause, a San Diego group formed in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in California.

According to documents filed in San Diego County Superior Court, lawyers for Minnesota-based Target Corp. will argue that its stores are private property and not quasi-public forums, such as shopping malls, where the courts have sided with free-speech advocates.

“Target is not a public forum,” company attorney Dale Larson wrote in a court filing.

But lawyers for Canvass for a Cause contend Target’s policy is overly broad.

“Target has completely banned any private conversation between previously unacquainted individuals on the outside sidewalks and walkways,” attorney Rachel Scoma wrote in a court filing. “Target has not met its burden to show that each area it wishes to insulate from free speech activity does not possess attributes of a public forum.”

Target said it filed the suit after numerous customer complaints.

Target faced an angry backlash from customers, shareholders and gay and lesbian groups last year for donating $150,000 to a business group that was backing a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate opposed to gay rights.

The company apologized and instituted tighter controls on political contributions.


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Photo: A Target store in West Hollywood. Credit: Christina House / For the Times