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Judge allows gay rights group to protest outside Target

NEW YORK -- A judge ruled Thursday that a San Diego pro-gay marriage group can continue canvassing outside of Target stores in California, the Associated Press reported. However, protestors must stay 30 ft. away from store entrances and canvass at just one entrance at a time.

The retailer had sought 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.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton said some Target stores may fall under California's law that considers shopping centers to be public forums. Also, canvassing over the last year occurred mainly without incident and Target failed to demonstrate that customers were being harassed, he said.

"Target has not met its burden to show that its blanket policy to ban all solicitors at all stores in California is proper," he wrote.

Target said at least eight of its stores in the San Diego area have received more than a dozen complaints daily since canvassers started working the locations in October 2010. The activists have refused to leave when asked politely and shown the company's policy prohibiting "expressive activity" on its property, Target said.

Target, however, didn't present testimony from customers who the company said had complained. An attorney for the chain said he didn't think it was necessary since the complaints weren't the central issue. The case was about Target's right to enforce its rules on its land.

Target Corp. said in a statement Thursday that the legal action was "to provide a distraction-free shopping environment for our guests."

"Target's long-standing policy is that we do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented," the company said.