Right-wing AGs threaten retailer that Pride Month merch might have broken child protection laws

I was shopping at my local Kroger — something I do at least once a week — and all of their Pride merchandise was on clearance. T-shirts were $1.80, rainbow garden flags $2. They had a shopping cart overflowing with it all.

Honestly, I doubt they sold any of it during June.

There was never a display, just a pile of gray and black t-shirts on a shelf. The only reason I found the shirts during actual Pride Month at all was because there was a display of Pride Skittles above them.

(You know Pride Skittles — when they make all of the candies this wan gray color because they’re letting LGBTQ artists use the rainbow to make art for the Skittles bags. It’s weird to me that this lasted past the first year. Pride Skittles are the saddest Skittles. It’s like a Skittles mausoleum. That said, they’re still delicious, and they were on clearance, so you bet I bought them. But even for $1.80, I didn’t buy any Pride shirts, though. They were honestly just ugly.)

Maybe Kroger’s lack of display was intentional. It could just be that grocery stores aren’t well equipped to display t-shirts, a type of merchandise they rarely have for sale. Or maybe Kroger saw what happened with Target and decided to keep their rainbow merch on the down low. Hard to say.

Wait, did I say what happened with Target? My apologies. I meant what is HAPPENING with Target. Because the ghost of Pride Fest Past continues to haunt them. If by ghost I mean a bunch of Republican attorneys general from around the country threatening Target with a letter warning them that their Pride merchandise might well have broken “our states’ child-protection and parental-rights laws.”

In a letter dated July 5 to Target’s CEO Brian C. Cornell, attorneys general of Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and South Carolina wrote that they were “concerned” by Target’s Pride merchandise and accused them of selling “obscene matter” to minors as part of a “comprehensive effort to promote gender and sexual identity among children.”

The letter cites discredited sources and repeats all of the lies that right-wing media has been screaming about, lies that I won’t bother repeating here, because they’re lies.

(Note to mainstream media: See? It isn’t that hard.)

The whole letter is really embarrassing. Or it should be; the signers most likely are very happy to see their names scrawled at the bottom.

The letter writers aren’t just mad that Target dared to sell Pride baby onesies; they are mad that Target cost shareholders money. The letter makes clear that the only reason for a company to exist is to make money for shareholders, and that anything that isn’t expressly for that purpose is something the company should not be doing.

Caring about people is wrong, damn it.

It’s an interesting argument. The anti-LGBTQ right-wing echo machine stirred up the whole Target Pride controversy. Target has had a Pride display for years, and it wasn’t a BFD. But once the conservative media and extremist politicians decided to make homophobia and transphobia their main agenda, Target was an easy, um, target because their displays are so visible and consistent.

So the AG argument is basically, “You did a thing that we didn’t like, so we threw a temper tantrum and told people not to shop at Target because

Target turns babies trans and sacrifices them to Satan, and then people listened to us, and then Target’s shares dropped a bit, and then we lost money, and now we’re so mad because this is all your fault.”

Target shares dropping was solely because the straight brigade rose up against the corporate rainbow monster. Target’s early capitulation to the right-wing hysterics about their Pride collection pissed off a lot of LGBTQ people and allies. I know I didn’t set foot in a Target the entire month of June.

But also, as CBS News reports, “Like many retailers, the company is struggling with a pullback in consumer spending because of high inflation, which has weighed on its profits.”

Funny that the letter doesn’t mention anything about, you know, market forces beyond the outsize force of the gay agenda.

What this letter makes clear is that the right-wing concentration on dismantling as many of the gains that LGBTQ people have made as possible is really just beginning. They can’t and won’t let this go because they believe it will help them keep and gain power. And plenty of dumb-dumbs will fall for it. They always do.

Practicing self-care from now through November 2024 is going to be really important. Fight like hell, but rest like hell, too. We’re all going to need the strength.

D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.