Why isn’t Target sponsoring the LGBT national conference in Minneapolis?

If you agreed with the Advocate magazine’s recent announcement that Minneapolis is the gayest city in America, well, it’s about to get a lot gayer.

That’s according to Russell Roybal, one of the organizers behind the National Conference on LGBT Equality, also known as Creating Change. It’s billed as the nation’s largest annual strategy summit for advocates of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

The conference has set a record in the number of volunteers it’s recruited – and the amount of corporate cash it’s raised, Roybal said.

But while glancing at the list of sponsors, which includes local heavyweights Best Buy and Xcel Energy, we noticed one major Minnesota-grown company missing: Target.

While Target has never been a sponsor of the conference, company spokeswoman Amy Reilly tells me Target was at one time considering a partnership:

“We had discussions with the [National Gay and Lesbian Task Force] about a potential sponsorship, and we kind of mutually agreed that this year’s conference wasn’t the right opportunity for both of us.”

Roybal, deputy executive director of the Task Force, acknowledges that Target’s decision to contribute to a group backing former gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who opposes same-sex marriage, “still lingers in the minds of many people.”

Roybal notes that Target, through its policies and health benefits, has long been a model employer for the company’s gay and lesbian workers. That caused many to view the company’s decision to support MN Forward as a kind of betrayal, he said.

“The LGBT community is really loyal, they love shopping at Target,” he said. “And when we see a friend do something questionable in our minds, we get upset by that.”

It should be noted that Best Buy, one of the sponsors for this year’s conference, also contributed to MN Forward.

But Roybal said Best Buy’s senior brass quickly responded to the backlash from the GLBT community after the donation became public, and sent the company’s CEO to meet with Task Force leaders and local advocacy groups in December:

“After that conversation, we decided that having a partnership and working together on the conference would be a good decision for both of us. We’re in continued conversations with Target. We’ve not the same level of conversations with Target, and so that’s where we’re at.”

Roybal says Target is sending several employees to participate or volunteer at the five-day event. And the door is open, he said, for Target to give money to the conference in the future.