Off-Target: Lady Gaga Splits From Chain After Anti-Gay Controversy

It seemed like a very unlikely marriage at the start: Gay-rights advocate Lady Gaga, poised to release a gay anthem called "Born This Way," teaming up with Target, a retailer criticized for donating money to political action committees that support anti-gay-rights candidates. "Target and Lady Gaga together is a win-win," the singer's manager Troy Carter said when the star's deal to release an exclusive deluxe edition of Born This Way via the chain was announced in early February. "Target provides us with the perfect platform to really turn the spotlight on the incredible album that Lady Gaga has made," added Interscope Geffen A&M vice chairman Steve Berman.

One month later, Gaga and her team are singing a different tune. "Lady Gaga and Target came to a mutual decision to end their overall exclusive partnership a few weeks ago," a rep for the singer tells The Amp in a statement. "[Lady Gaga] and Target didn't see eye to eye on Target's policy of political donations and how they affect the LGBT community," an unnamed source told the Advocate, whose website broke the story last night. Target didn't respond to a request for comment at press time.

Target became a target for gay rights groups after the company donated $150,000 to MN Forward, a PAC that supported Minnesota State Representative Tom Emmer's 2010 campaign for governor. The conservative Emmer spoke out in favor of a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and met with members of the nonprofit ministry You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, Inc., which stated the execution of gays was "moral." After gay-rights groups complained and the Human Rights Campaign bought a full page ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized in August, saying, "I realize our decision affected many of you in a way I did not anticipate, and for that I am genuinely sorry." Four months later, however, journalists learned the controversial donations had not ended: $31,200 more was handed out to politicians or groups that oppose gay rights.

Lady Gaga -- who was escorted to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards by military servicemen and women affected by Don't Ask Don't Tell -- said one of her goals for the Target team-up was to improve the company's thorny relationship with the gay community. "That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I've ever had in a business meeting," she told Billboard last month. "Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they've made in the past... Our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they've made supporting those groups." Target created a new "policy committee" to oversee the company's donations and pledged to spend nearly a half-million dollars -- a mere 2 percent of its community cause budget -- supporting groups like Out and Equal Workplace, Twin Cities Pride, and Project 515.

Target's exclusive deluxe edition of Born This Way was set to include three additional studio tracks and five remixes. Anyone who preordered the disc from February 11th through 26th on the store's website received a free download of its title track. The company had previously released exclusive CD sets by Prince and Taylor Swift, and in January announced they'd joined forces with a prominent gay artist: Ricky Martin.