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In court filing, Target comes out in favor of same-sex marriage

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Retail giant Target Corp. has publicly stated its support for same-sex marriage for the first time, as it filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a case affecting marriage laws in Wisconsin and Indiana.

The Minnesota-based firm revealed its position in a posting on the company's blog Tuesday.

"It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that includes rights we believe individuals should have related to marriage," wrote Jodee Kozlak, Target's executive vice president and chief human resources officer.

Target's public stance in favor of marriage equality is a significant shift from two years ago, when it stayed neutral on the issue while the state of Minnesota debated whether to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The amendment failed, and last year same-sex marriage became legal in Minnesota.

The company was also the subject of criticism and was threatened with boycotts in 2010, when it donated $150,000 to an interest group that supported Republican Tom Emmer's campaign for governor, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Emmer is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage.

Target said at the time the donation was intended to support Emmer's pro-business agenda. But the company still suffered a very public backlash, and then-CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued a public apology.

Target has long had a reputation for being supportive of gay and lesbian employees, and has offered benefits to same-sex partners of employees for several years. But it hasn't taken a public stand on same-sex marriage until now.

The case in question is before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The state of Wisconsin is appealing a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb that struck down the state's ban on gay marriage. The case was joined with a similar one in Indiana, the Business Journal reports.

A friend of the court, or amicus, brief is a position filed by a party who is interested in the legal issues of a case, but not directly involved in it.

Target's statement said gay marriage is, in part, a business issue because it's difficult to attract and retain talent in states where it's outlawed.

But Kozlak also wrote that the company's position goes further than that.

"We believe that everyone – all of our team members and our guests – deserve to be treated equally. And at Target we are proud to support the LGBT community."

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