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SAN DIEGO – The giant Target Corp. has lost its effort to stop local grass-roots activist group Canvass For A Cause (CFAC) from talking to customers outside their stores in California.
Superior Court Judge Jeffrey B. Barton released his ruling this afternoon, denying Target’s motion for an injunction to stop CFAC from petitioning customers.
During the hearing on March 25, CFAC contended that its right to free speech was being challenged by the lawsuit, while Target claimed the grass-roots group’s tactics were harming its business.
Tres Watson, executive director of CFAC, said he was thrilled with the ruling.
“This was not just a victory for the LGBT community,” Watson said, “but a victory for everybody who supports the fundamental American values to free speech.”
Watson said he expects Target will appeal the ruling.
Judge Barton said Target and its powerful law firm of Morrison & Foerster, which has offices globally, failed to show sufficient evidence that the big-box retailer’s business was suffering as a result of the petitioners.
“This million-dollar law firm overreached in this case,” Watson said. “They got beat by a lawyer fresh out of law school and a volunteer lawyer.”
Canvass For A Cause team members were out today at Target stores in Mission Valley in San Diego and in Encinitas. “We are celebrating our freedom of speech rights today,” Watson said.
During the hearing last month, the judge asked Target’s attorneys why Target’s court documents did not offer concrete evidence to back their allegations that CFAC volunteers were harassing customers and driving away business. Watson said after the hearing that all his volunteers are trained on how to properly speak with customers outside stores such as Target, Ralphs and Vons.
Watson said various court documents filed by Target’s attorneys deal in hearsay and even triple hearsay without a single incident proving that a CFAC volunteer has broken any rules or violated any laws.
At that hearing, Target’s high-powered attorneys tried to persuade the judge to rule on their behalf because they had won 121 cases in Superior Court to stop groups from talking to customers outside their stores in California. The judge seemed unimpressed, Watson said at the time.
“It’s hard to read the tea leaves,” Watson said in March, but noted that Target won those 121 cases because nobody defended their cases. “They bring out their million-dollar lawyers and go after grass-root groups that don’t have a lot of money. It’s always a David vs. Goliath situation.”
Watson says the lawsuit is another black eye for Target with the LGBT community. CFAC supports gay marriage, among other issues, and one of Target’s court documents complains that the corporation fears its customers will think Target supports same-sex marriage as a result.
Last month, Lady Gaga abruptly ended a deal with Target over its lack of support for gay rights and issues. And Target got into hot water with the LGBT community and its allies after learning that the corporation had been making sizable political donations to anti-gay candidates and conservative organizations that don’t support LGBT equality.
“It’s been a PR disaster for Target,” Watson said this afternoon as he noted that Target has never gone after groups that oppose gay rights.