Warring Petitions: Condemnation Or Appreciation For Target Bathroom Policy?

Since Target’s bathroom policy, allowing all customers to use the facilities that match their identity, became a public issue, a petition has collected over a million signatures promising to boycott the store. Now, another petition has begun with the opposite intention. The motive is to thank Target for creating an inclusive environment where transgender and genderfluid individuals can enter a restroom without fear of being thrown out or harassed by management.

After North Carolina’s legislative body passed, in an emergency session, a law commonly known as the “bathroom bill,” which dictates that restrooms for public use in government offices, schools, and other state facilities must be gender-segregated, with gender defined by birth certificate, the entire nation reacted. People called for repeal, and others expressed support. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of several plaintiffs.

Businesses and public figures stepped in, too, speaking for repeal, announcing cancellation of expansion plans in the state, and relocating events.

Target, however, took a different path. Rather than threatening the state, the retail chain spoke directly to customers, letting gender-diverse shoppers know they are welcome in the store, and welcome to use the restroom matching their identities. The chain didn’t establish a new policy, though — they merely made sure customers were aware of a long-standing bathroom policy.

The American Family Association, an organization that makes the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups and that lobbies against laws supporting LGBT rights, created a petition.

The petition, which claims Target promised to let men into women’s bathrooms and fitting rooms, is reported to have amassed over a million signatures.

Now, a petition on Move On is countering that action, gathering signatures to thank Target for its bathroom policy.

The petition declares the following.

“I pledge to support Target and any other business that stands up for transgender rights and accommodates transgender people in their restroom use.”

As of Sunday morning, just over 100k signatures have been collected.

This obviously pales in comparison to the anti-Target petition, but Think Progress found a disturbing concern about the AFA’s missive.

Unlike petitions on Move On, names of those who sign the petition are not displayed. The Move On petition supporting Target’s bathroom policy allows one to go through, page by page, every signature. Further, Think Progress‘s Zack Ford tested whether obvious fake names — such as “I really think this is stupid” — would be accepted. The three he tried were, and he watched the numbers increase.

He’s not the only one. People have been letting Target know, on social media, that the numbers may not reflect reality.

That’s one sample — there are others on the page saying their fake signatures were also added to the list.

When I tested it, it allowed me to do the same. The Move On petition allowed me to add a fake name as well, and allowed me to sign with my real name more than once, using the same email address.

Presumably, a person with a little time to spare could sit and add dozens of fake names to either petition. Though the petition in support of Target offers a slightly higher amount of accountability, since it’s possible to see the name list, it wouldn’t be too hard to simply select realistic fake names.

So what does that mean regarding the value of either petition? Probably not much. Paper petitions, too, can see a number of fake names. However, petitions are only one drop in a big bucket: Target is receiving phone calls and emails, feedback on social media, and direct comments to staff in store, both in favor of and opposing their bathroom policy. Then there are the profit margins.

Target shoppers have posted on social media that the stores are crowded and don’t seem to be suffering from the boycott.

The chain itself did not respond to an email asking them to confirm or deny that business is carrying on as usual, but analysts say the boycott over Target’s bathroom policy isn’t likely to harm the company.

Editor’s note: MoveOn.org submitted the following statement in response to this article.

“MoveOn.org petitions will not allow individuals to sign multiple times with the same email address — it will automatically update to only include 1 signature.”

[Image via Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com]