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Indiana attorney general known for ‘irrelevant posturing’ says Target may be ‘negligent’ for selling ‘obscene’ Pride collection


Left: Target 2023 Pride collection (Credit: mpi34/MediaPunch /IPX); Right: Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R). (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).

Six Republican attorneys general have warned Target that there could be legal consequences for marketing “potentially harmful” merchandise in its 2023 Pride collection.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita sent a letter Wednesday to Target’s CEO, Brian C. Cornell, co-signed by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina. The letter said that selling Pride merchandise may not only violate child protection laws but may also amount to negligence toward Target’s customers and shareholders on the part of company management.

The objectionable merchandise mentioned by the officials included “LGBT-themed onesies, bibs, and overalls, t-shirts labeled ‘Girls Gays Theys,'” a T-shirt with a graphic of comedian, author, and recording artist Katya and the words “Adult Drag Queen Katya,” “girls’ swimsuits with ‘tuck-friendly construction’ and ‘extra crotch coverage’ for male genitalia,” and apparel made by a “Satanist-Inspired” brand “known for designs that glorify violence.” As examples, the letter mentioned products featuring the phrase, “We Bash Back” with a heart-shaped mace in the trans-flag colors, “Transphobe Collector” with a skull, and “Homophobe Headrest” with skulls beside a pastel guillotine.

The allegation that Target sold “tuck-friendly” swimsuits in children’s sizes was the subject of a misleading video that was debunked last May. The swimsuits at issue were available only in adult sizes and were labeled as “Thoughtfully Fit on Multiple Body Types and Gender Expressions” — not as “tuck-friendly.” Pride apparel was located in a special section at the front of the store, and not in the children’s section.

Rokita’s letter also said Target “sold products with anti-Christian designs, such as pentagrams, horned skulls, and other Satanic products,” including products printed with “Satan Respects Pronouns” and “a horned ram representing Baphomet — a half-human, half-animal, hermaphrodite worshiped by the occult.”

“As Attorneys General committed to enforcing our States’ child-protection and parental-rights laws, we are concerned by recent events involving the company’s ‘Pride’ campaign” began Rokita. “Our concerns entail the company’s promotion and sale of potentially harmful products to minors, related potential interference with parental authority in matters of sex and gender identity, and possible violation of fiduciary duties by the company’s directors and officers.”

Apart from accusing Target of having “wittingly marketed and sold LGBTQIA+ promotional products to families and young children as part of a comprehensive effort to promote gender and sexual identity among children,” however, the letter was unclear as to exactly how the products relate to child protection laws. Rather, the letter repeatedly said the products “raise concerns.”

Rokita also referred to state laws that prohibit “the ‘sale or distribution . . . of obscene matter,'” as well as those passed “to protect children from harmful content meant to sexualize them and prohibit gender transitions of children.”

Generally, the First Amendment protects the manufacture, sale, or wearing of clothing bearing messages as speech. Obscenity is not protected, but for speech to be considered “obscene,” it must not only be objectionable, but also lack any serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Rokita devoted the bulk of the six-page letter to accusations that Target may have failed its shareholders by promoting the Target’s 2023 Pride line to the detriment of the company’s stock price.

“The evidence suggests that Target’s directors and officers may be negligent in undertaking the ‘Pride’ campaign,” the letter said. Rokita went on to characterize the decision to stock the merchandise as an attempt to satisfy left-wing activists:

Target’s board and its management may not lawfully dilute their fiduciary duties to satisfy the Board’s (or left-wing activists’) desires to foist contentious social or political agendas upon families and children at the expense of the company’s hardwon good will and against its best interests

Rokita referred specifically to allegedbomb threats against the company. Indeed, in May and June, a series of threats were reported against several Target stores — though none of the stores at issue were located in Indiana — after the company removed some of its Pride collection following violent confrontations against staff over the displays and merchandise. Police found no evidence of explosives.

Target issued a statement in May as follows:

For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. 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. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.

Rokita and the other attorneys general said that Target “should not use such threats as a pretext for using Target’s valuable business to promote collateral political and social agendas—as these LGBTQIA+ activists apparently hope it will.”

During his time as Indiana’s attorney general, Rokita has come under fire for taking part in several high-profile — but exaggerated — conservative campaigns. In May, Rokita declared himself victorious in disciplining a doctor for revealing a 9-year-old Ohio rape victim’s abortion, despite the doctor having successfully defended against the bulk of Rokita’s allegations. That same month, a federal court said that over 90% of a lawsuit Rokita filed against TikTok for allowing the Chinese government to access user data had been “devoted to irrelevant posturing.”

You can read the full letter to Target here.

Target did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos