Many Business Leaders Oppose Amendment

Apr 27, 2012

The debate over a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions includes its potential economic impact.

Isaac-Davy Aronson: Dozens of North Carolina businesses and executives have come out against the amendment. Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers compared it to Jim Crow laws. The company itself has no position on the amendment, though it calls the state's open and inclusive reputation critical to economic growth. Self-Help CEO Martin Eakes, a member of Bank of America's national advisory board, said the amendment could push Bank of America from its Charlotte headquarters to New York. Bank of America did not respond to requests for comment.

Bob Young founded Raleigh-based open-source software giant Red Hat. He now runs online publishing platform Lulu. He says the amendment would hurt recruitment.

Bob Young: It is saying we don't want you if you fall into these categories, and it's gonna cause Lulu, it's gonna cost us talented kids who would otherwise come and join us.

Tami Fitzgerald, head of the pro-amendment group Vote for Marriage NC, disagrees.

Tami Fitzgerald: We believe that marriage is actually good for business because it produces the next generation of workers, and it produces stable families who produce good workers.

Vote for Marriage NC was unable to provide an example of a business that supports the amendment. Fitzgerald says most of the top-performing states economically have similar amendments, though she acknowledges there's no proven correlation between those things.

Bob Young describes himself as a conservative, and he says he wouldn't be surprised if leaders in more traditional industries like tobacco and farming support the amendment or don't care.

Bob Young: But if North Carolina wants to be a 21st-century-based economy and attract technology companies and the talent necessary to make those technology companies successful, this is about as foolish an initiative as legislators in North Carolina could come up with.

The state chamber of commerce hasn't taken a position on the amendment. It says it simply hasn't heard a lot from its members on the issue.