Will anti-LGBT boycott of Target benefit Walmart?

Last Updated Apr 27, 2016 5:26 PM EDT

As an online petition calling for a boycott of Target (TGT) -- for letting transgender people use the bathroom of their choice -- nears 916,000 signatures, another Christian group is urging activists to shop at Walmart (WMT) instead.

"Target has taken a very decided position. Their position is they are going to favor the LGBT community, and they have the freedom to do that," said Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer (FDC), which says it speaks for 41 million Christian Americans who spend $2 trillion annually.

The American Family Association (AFA), which is behind the Target boycott, has done a "really good job of letting people know and capturing the sentiment of those frustrated with Target's specific position on changing rooms and bathrooms," said Stone, whose group in November came out with an index that scores brands on their "compatibility" with the FDC community. Walmart and nine other brands scored higher than Target.

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

Stone said the FDC's index is modeled after the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, which rates U.S. workplaces on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

On Wednesday, the HRC condemned the passage of an anti-transgender ordinance in Oxford, Alabama, the previous night. The measure, which makes it a misdemeanor for a person to use a restroom that doesn't correspond with their gender at birth, includes a potential $500 fine or up to six months in jail.

The president of the Oxford City Council reportedly said the measure came in response to the policy at Target, which has a store in a city shopping center.

The AFA launched its boycott effort after Target reiterated in a blog post last week that it supports the federal Equality Act and that "we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity."

Target made its move after states including Mississippi and North Carolina passed laws to protect those who cite religious beliefs for refusing to serve or employ gay or transgender people. Some of the measures limit access to public restrooms and require transgender people use those that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate.

Initially founded as the American Federation for Decency, the AFA is identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

However, Tim Wildmon, president of the AFA, rejected the label. "It's not a hatred for gay people. Most Christians feel people should live and let live," he said.

Faith-driven employees and customers are denied the same consideration granted to minorities and members of the LGBT community by Corporate America, contended Stone, who said: "While we're accommodating one group, we're excluding others."

"We would like to see Target reverse its policy. We don't want to see this become a trend across the country," said Wildmon. "This is nuts, it's carrying the LGBT movement way too far. There are a lot of people who are sick and tired of this agenda being shoved down their throats."

Target, however, isn't changing its stance.

"We certainly respect that there are a wide variety of perspectives and opinions," Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said. "As a company that firmly stands behind what it means to offer our team an inclusive place to work -- and our guests an inclusive place to shop -- we continue to believe that this is the right thing for Target."

Target's policy of welcoming all of its customers is "not that radical" a statement for a retailer to make, said Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. "Trans people will continue to use bathrooms in all sorts of stores," regardless of the legislative moves in some states, Keisling added. "Most of us will use the bathroom that will cause the least amount of ruckus."