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Target suit aims to bar gay activists

A judge said Friday he would issue a ruling next week in a lawsuit filed by Target Corp. against a San Diego pro-gay marriage group to make it stop canvassing outside the retailer's California stores.

The Minnesota-based corporation is seeking an injunction barring the activists from every outlet in the state, alleging they harass customers by cornering them near store entrances to discuss gay marriage, solicit donations and collect signatures on petitions for their cause.

Rights advocates say the legal battle between Target and Canvass For A Cause could further strain the retailer's relations with the gay and lesbian community. Target previously made a $150,000 donation to a business group backing a Minnesota Republican candidate opposed to gay marriage.

Target insists it remains committed to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and its lawsuit has nothing to do with the political agenda of Canvass For A Cause.

During a court hearing Friday in San Diego, Target attorney David McDowell told Judge Jeffrey Barton the case is about Target's right to enforce its rules on its land.

"The question is Target's property right and its right to exclude," McDowell said.

Barton had asked McDowell why the company did not present testimony from customers complaining about the activists. McDowell said Target could get such testimony but he did not think that was necessary since it's not the central issue.

Bryan W. Pease, an attorney for Canvass For A Cause, argued that sidewalks and areas outside stores such as Target have been considered by courts to be public domain for free speech.

He said Target is taking action because it does not agree with the group's message about gay marriage.

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