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Target joins defense of same-sex marriage

MINNEAPOLIS – Target Corp. is adding its name to a legal defense of gay marriage, joining other large companies taking a stand, just four years after the retailer came under criticism for supporting a strident opponent of same-sex unions.

Target said it has signed a court brief backing marriage equality in a pending court case and publicly declared its support of gay marriage, a move similar to those taken by Starbucks, Intel and Apple.

“It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that includes rights we believe individuals should have re­lated to marriage,” wrote Jodee Koz­lak, executive vice president of hu­man resources, on Target’s blog.

Target has come under fire in the past from gay-rights activists who threatened boycotts after the retailer donated to an organization that sup­ported Republican Tom Emmer, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, in the 2010 Minnesota governor’s race. Target has worked to win back customers in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and has long offered benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.

The case in which Target has filed a brief combines legal actions in Wisconsin and Indiana. Federal judges overturned gay marriage bans in both states, and state officials appealed.

Phil Duran, legal director of OutFront Minnesota, which worked to de­feat the state’s referendum to ban gay marriage, called Target “a powerful voice.”

A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Family Council, which led the charge against gay marriage, predicted that the move will backfire.

“This is a very risky business decision and, ultimately, the wrong one because it is families that shop at Target,” Autumn Leva told the Star Tribune.

“People in Minnesota are still deeply divided on this issue.”