America’s largest gay group, Human Rights Campaign, is protesting over Target’s $150,000 donation which was used to support a Republican gubernatorial candidate who has opposed gay rights.

Target, which was given an 100 per cent rating in HRC’s annual diversity index, gave the funds to the new political group Minnesota Forward.

Minnesota Forward used the funds to support an advertising campaign backing Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who is against gay marriage and has voted against other gay rights initiatives.

Minnesota does not allow gay marriage but the HRC says it is expected to become a hot issue in the state.

Target and HRC have been in talks over the donation, but after these broke down several days ago, HRC says it will continue to protest.

A number of left-leaning groups have called for boycotts of Target, leading to Republican complaints that the retailer is a victim of “liberal thuggery”.

HRC had asked Target to donate the same sum to an organisation which supports same-sex marriage but the retailer has apparently chosen not to take this step.

Joe Solmonese of HRC said yesterday: “If that initial donation was a slap in the face, Target has now delivered a punch in the gut.

“With your signatures in hand, HRC has been talking directly with Target for two weeks. In a shocking development, Target just told us that they won’t be taking any corrective action to repair the harm they’ve caused.

“The stakes are too high in Minnesota to just sit back. The next governor will likely have the opportunity to either sign or veto marriage equality legislation – so HRC will devote $150,000 of our own resources to elect a pro-equality governor and lawmakers in this critical state.”

Target has said that it gave the donation for economic reasons, as Mr Emmer is advocating tax cuts.

A Target statement said: “We believe that it is impossible to avoid turning any further actions into a political issue and will use the benefit of time to make thoughtful, careful decisions on how best to move forward.”

HRC has said it will now challenge another retailer, Best Buy, which has also donated to Minnesota Forward.