A judge has ruled against US retailer Target in its bid to ban gay rights campaigners canvassing outside its San Diego stores.

Target, which has been criticised for supporting anti-gay groups, claimed that Canvass For A Cause, which is working for gay marriage, was driving away its customers.

Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton denied the retailer’s request for a temporary injunction against the group and ruled that store entrances are considered public forums under California law.

He told Canvass For A Cause to be respectful about where it canvasses and avoid blocking paths.

Target has not commented but Canvass For A Cause director Tres Watson told Associated Press: “I think this is a victory for every American that cherishes our fundamental values.”

The retailer said that its case against the gay rights group had nothing to do with activists’ political agenda.

Lady Gaga recently walked away from an exclusive deal with Target to sell her album in its stores over the retailer’s donations to anti-gay causes.

Last year, the retailer gave a $150,000 donation to Minnesota Forward, which used the funds to back Republican state gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who is against gay marriage and has voted against other gay rights initiatives.

After the donation to Minnesota candidate Mr Emmer, Target said it would “use the benefit of time to make thoughtful, careful decisions on how best to move forward”.

It received a 100 per cent rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual diversity index before the controversy.