News (USA)

Target refused to sell a Pride onesie to a gay couple

A man walks in front of Target store in Ontario Canada.
A Target store Photo: Shutterstock

A gay couple was outraged when employees at a Target store in Lake Park, Florida, refused to sell them a Pride-themed onesie for their 10-month-old son.

Michael Hoffacker and Michael Roedel told local ABC affiliate WPBF that they picked up the item, which was displayed alongside the store’s other Pride merchandise, while shopping at their local Target store on June 3. The onesie reportedly had a tag and barcode attached to it. But when the couple attempted to scan the item at the store’s self-checkout aisle, an alert came up on the screen.

“A Target team member walked over and she let us know that that item should have been pulled from the shelves and it had a ‘Do Not Sell’ on it and they would not be able to sell us the item,” Hoffacker said.

A manager reportedly told the couple that if she were to allow them to purchase the onesie, she would likely lose her job. Hoffacker and Roedel were told that their only option would be to call Target’s 800 number. But when they called, they were told by a representative that there was nothing to be done.

Anti-LGBTQ+ protests, both online and in stores, over Target’s 2023 Pride merchandise led the company to announce “adjustments” to the collection. On May 24, the company released a statement saying that it would be “removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior,” though they did not specify which products would be removed from stores or the retailer’s website. Target locations in some states have reportedly relocated their Pride displays to the back of the stores and removed Pride apparel from mannequins to reduce their visibility.

Target claimed that the move was intended to ensure the safety of its in-store employees, who have faced harassment from anti-LGBTQ+ protesters. Stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah have reportedly received bomb threats mentioning the Pride-themed merchandise. But members of the LGBTQ+ community have accused the company of caving to far-right extremists.

Hoffacker and Roedel are not the first Target customers to have reported being unable to purchase Pride-themed items that remained on store shelves. In mid-May, TikToker Sara Lane (@saralane_) described a similar incident at a location in Texas. While attempting to purchase the children’s book ABC-Deconstructing Gender at a self-checkout aisle, Lane said she was confronted with the same alert Hoffacker and Roedel saw when trying to purchase their onesie. A Target employee told her that the book had been recalled and she could not sell it to Lane.

Roedel called the couple’s experience “infuriating.”

“Target, in this moment, is wrong,” he told WPBF. “They need to be better and they need to be a better ally in this community and especially in a situation where our family is there, trying to celebrate who we are in a very, very historic and proud, prideful June, and we’re there having a team lead, a manager at Target, tell us we can’t buy a product to actually celebrate our community.”

“It was a pretty painful and emotional moment,” Hoffacker said. “I’ve never actually felt restricted from my rights as a gay man through being in college to when I came out until now, I mean this was one of the moments when I felt like I didn’t have the rights that I deserved to have. It was very uncomfortable.”

In a letter to Target CEO Brian Cornell and members of the company’s board of directors, Hoffacker wrote that the company’s decision not to sell the onesie “negatively impacted my family, my identity, my dignity.”

“Target claims to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, or so I was told by your Executive Team Lead during our exchange,” Hoffacker wrote. “However, Allyship requires standing strong for those who are marginalized when it matters most. Target failed, and continues to fail, to do so in this moment. Instead, Target has allowed itself to be bullied by a small, vocal minority using a tried-and-true playbook to threaten violence and fear against viewpoints they disagree with. This impacts us all. What will you do when they come for other minorities next? Pull their merchandise, as well?”

He called on Cornell and Target leadership to reverse their decision to remove Pride items from store shelves and minimize Pride displays. “You have a chance to reverse this hurtful decision at the beginning of Pride month,” Hoffacker wrote. “Until I see your company living the mission and values you proclaim to embody, you’ve lost a very loyal customer, my family and countless others I will be sharing this story with. Do better, Target.”

LGBTQ Nation reached out to Target for comment and will update this article if they respond.

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