Roughly 65 percent of respondents to a recent Twin Cities Business poll said they believe the marriage amendment would have an impact on Minnesota businesses, and 50 percent said it is appropriate for companies to take a public stance on such issues.
This November, Minnesotans will vote on an amendment that would change the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman—effectively banning same-sex marriage.
Twin Cities Business recently polled readers of its Briefcase e-newsletter, as well as its social media followers, regarding their stance on the amendment, what (if any) effect they believe it would have on businesses, and whether it’s appropriate for businesses to publicly voice an opinion on such issues.
Of the 183 individuals who responded, 28 percent said they believe the proposed amendment would have a “significant” impact on Minnesota businesses, 36 percent said it would have “some” impact, 28 percent said it would have “none,” and 8 percent were undecided.
When asked to elaborate, many respondents said the passage of the amendment would lead to a loss of talent to other states and make corporations less likely to move here. Others added that the more the state is perceived as inclusive and welcoming, the larger the tax base can grow.
“I wouldn’t want to do business with or within a state that takes specific measures to exclude specific people or groups of people,” one person wrote. “I’m sure there are others who feel the same [way] I do.”
“I don’t believe alternative lifestyle people are automatically going to move out of state if the marriage amendment is passed,” one respondent said. “I consider marriage a sacred institution that should remain that way. Corporations can still offer benefits to people in same-sex relationships, but we don’t have to promote those relationships as a marriage.”
Some said that allowing same-sex marriage would increase employee benefit costs for companies, although a rejection of the amendment wouldn’t legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
Thirty percent of all respondents said they personally favor the amendment, 69 percent oppose it, and 1 percent remain undecided.
The poll was conducted shortly after Golden Valley-based General Mills, Inc., took the most prominent corporate stance on the issue to date.
“While General Mills doesn’t normally take positions on ballot measures, this is a business issue that impacts our employees,” Ken Charles, vice president of global diversity and inclusion, wrote in a company blog. “I am proud to see our company join the ranks of local and national employers speaking out for inclusion. We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy—and as a Minnesota-based company, we oppose it.”
Twin Cities Business’ poll asked whether respondents believe it is appropriate for businesses to take a public stance on issues like the marriage amendment.
Half said it is appropriate, 40 percent said it is inappropriate, and 11 percent were undecided.
Many again cited their belief that passage of the amendment would result in a loss of talent—saying that’s reason enough for companies to speak out.
“As long as there is full disclosure on the authors of a public stance, I think there should be no restriction on who can take that stance,” one said.Some others, however, said that by taking a public stance, companies cross a moral line.
“Since the amendment has no business effect, the board of directors of any such business making such a decision is expanding its authority beyond its business purposes,” one person said.
Several took stake with companies voicing a narrow opinion because businesses comprise many people who have diverse viewpoints—and it’s almost inevitable that such a stance will run counter to at least some of those workers.
Here are some other responses from the survey:
• “More marriages = more money into our economy.”
• “I do not think [businesses taking a stance] is appropriate, and I think it's an unwise business decision. Either side you take could cause a customer to stop doing business with you.”
• “This is a progressive state. Our GLBT population is an extremely valuable asset to the state, our business community, and our economy. They pay taxes; they’re prosperous. We need to do everything possible to make Minnesota a welcoming environment for these citizens and everyone else.”
• “It will cost businesses more for health care and benefits by covering additional spouses and probably children.”
• “There is evidence of open, welcoming communities on regional GDP strength and growth (Knight Foundation, Soul of the Community, as well Richard Florida’s creative class). When a portion of society is closed off from full citizenship rights, that affects decisions on where people live and work, whether they are part of that group or not. Less open regions do not attract their full measure of creative, talented workers.”
• “In general, I think [the impact on business] will be minimal. Certain industries may see an impact, but I can't imagine it will be huge.”
• “As the owner of a creative marketing business, that kind of intolerance sends a disastrous message to potential recruits/employees and clients.”
• “Companies don’t vote—voters vote. So let everyone vote as they see fit.”
• “I don’t know about ‘appropriate,’ but they shouldn’t have to take a public stance. You either like/want/need their product or service or not, and that does not have much to do with their beliefs about gay marriage.”
• “It’s a personal decision, not a business decision!”
• “Does a company really want to create a culture where everyone thinks and feels the same or is fearful to communicate if/when they have a different perspective? What a way to kill innovation and transparency.”
• “The reason companies take a stance is for monetary and PR gain.”