Rightwing group takes aim at Target for offering Pride-themed merchandise | LGBTQ+ rights

The rightwing Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC) has attacked the US retailer Target over items in its Pride collection, the latest in a wave of conservative backlash against LGBTQ communities and businesses that promote their civil rights.

The political group issued a statement on Thursday calling out the retailer for “promoting demonic paraphernalia” that is included in its LGBTQ+ collection.

“CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp has sent a letter to Brian Cornell, the Chairman and CEO of Target Corporation and its board members on the disturbing news that they have partnered with a Satanic designer in promoting demonic paraphernalia in their stores,” read the CPAC statement.

“Like Bud Light, Target has abandoned their customer base – many who are people of faith and find these actions by Target as simply unacceptable,” read the statement, referring to the anti-trans backlash Bud Light received for briefly partnering with a trans influencer .

CPAC’s ire with Target comes after the retailer sold designs by the British brand Abprallen, which featured images of skulls and pentagrams in pastel coloring. The brand is headed by the trans designer Erik Carnell, who said he had received hundreds of death threats after Target’s launch of his clothing.

“I’ve had a lot of death threats. I’ve had a lot of threats of gun violence,” said Carnell to the Daily Dot, adding that he “lost count” of how many threats he had received after 500.

Target has reportedly removed Abprallen apparel and will be removing other Pride merchandise from its stores, after backlash from a minority of its customers and threats made to Target staff.

The target has not said which items it will specifically remove. But “tuck-friendly” women’s swimsuits – swimwear that allows some transgender women to conceal their genitals – also received backlash from conservatives online.

“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work,” said Target in a statement on Tuesday.

“Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

Target’s decision to remove some of its Pride merchandise has received criticism from featured designers and public figures, including the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, who accused the company of caving for anti-LGBTQ+ opinions.

However, Carnell posted a statement on the Etsy store for Abprallen saying that there had been a rush of orders following the attacks and that demand had been so great the company had temporarily paused taking new orders.

“Your support during this extremely difficult time means more than I can express,” Carnell said on the Etsy page.

The latest from CPAC comes as conservative politicians across the US pass a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, with many laws targeting the rights of transgender people. Such laws affect almost every aspect of public life, including education and healthcare.

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Over 540 anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been introduced in US states in 2023, according to data from the Human Rights Campaign, a US LGBTQ+ advocacy group. Forty-five such bills have been passed, with several targeting gender-affirming healthcare for minors.

Nebraska’s governor, Jim Pillen, signed a bill on Monday banning gender-affirming care for people under the age of 19. Nebraska now joins at least 19 other states that have similar restrictions on healthcare access for transgender people.

“The governor’s decision to sign these sweeping restrictions into law betrays a total disregard for Nebraskans’ freedom, health and wellbeing,” Mindy Rush Chipman, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, told the Associated Press. “Just as we have seen in other states, these bans will result in significant harm, most intensely hurting already vulnerable communities.”

Anti-LGBTQ legislation has also targeted transgender people’s right to use the bathroom of their choice. Last month, Kansas’s legislature overrode a veto from the state’s Democratic governor to pass one of the most strict bathroom laws.

At least eight other states have enacted similar bills restricting bathroom use of transgender people.

Other anti-LGBTQ+ bills have targeted education, including material taught in classrooms and the ability for transgender students to participate in activities such as school sports.

Legislation such as Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill has resulted in book bans across the country. The law allows people to challenge material that “depicts or describes sexual conduct” and requires prior parental approval for challenged material.

Last month, House Republicans passed a bill banning trans girls and women from participating on sports teams of schools that received public funding, joining several states that have passed similar bans under the guise of protecting women’s sports.