General Mills has become the latest high-profile corporation to take a public stance on gay marriage, speaking out against a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex couples from tying the knot in Minnesota.
As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting, the company's chief executive voiced the Minnesota-based company's opposition this week at a General Mills function attended by 400 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) professionals.
"We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy," the company's vice president for global diversity and inclusion, Ken Charles, is quoted by the publication as saying. "We value diversity. We value inclusion."
Added Tom Forsythe, vice president of corporate communications, in a statement to On Top Magazine: "For decades, General Mills has worked to create an inclusive culture for our employees. We believe it is important for Minnesota to be viewed as inclusive and welcoming as well."
Minnesota already bans gay marriage by statute, but marriage equality opponents have said putting the ban in the state constitution would make it harder for courts to undo it, according to the Associated Press. The proposed amendment will be on the ballot in November.
Among those to criticize General Mills -- whose lineup includes such iconic brands as Wheaties, Betty Crocker, Haagen-Dazs, Pillsbury and Yoplait, among others -- was Minnesota for Marriage, a conservative group pushing for the amendment's passage.
"I think by taking this position General Mills is saying to Minnesotans and people all round the globe that marriage doesn’t matter to them," Chuck Darrell, Communications Director for Minnesota for Marriage, told CBS Local, adding that he believed the stance would hurt the company overall. "It’s regrettable that a corporation that makes billions selling cereal to children should take a position that marriage should be redefined."
The National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) Brian Brown also blasted General Mills' stance, calling it "one of the dumbest corporate PR stunts of all time," the AP noted.
On the other hand, Minnesotans United for All Families, which is spearheading an effort to defeat passage of the amendment in November, not only cheered the news but also launched a petition thanking General Mills for “supporting all Minnesota families.”
RBC Wealth Management and Carlson Companies are two other Minnesota-based companies to have publicly opposed the proposal, according to the AP.
Take a look at other well-known companies which have spoken up in support of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights:
A statement on The Official Microsoft Blog titled "Marriage Equality in Washington State Would Be Good for Business" reads in part: Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples - Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. This in turn will help us continue to compete for talent.
In late January Nike was among the 6 companies -- including Microsoft -- who endorsed an effort to make Washington the seventh state to legalize gay marriage. In a letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, the companies wrote: "We write you today to show the support of our respective companies for SB 6239 and HB 2516 recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples." Washington state-based Vulcan, RealNetworks, Group Health Cooperative and Concur also signed the letter.
"Amazon is joining other Pacific Northwest companies, including Microsoft, Starbucks and Nike, in support of Washington state's marriage equality bills," Amazon said in a statement released in early February by spokeswoman Mary Osako. "The spirit of these bills is consistent with our longstanding employment practices."
In 2008 Levi Strauss & Company filed an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court explaining the economic advantages of gay marriage. The New York Times notes that the label "also signed on to sponsor a programming block on Logo, the gay cable channel owned by MTV Networks, and developed a marketing partnership with "Milk," the Focus Features movie about Harvey Milk, the gay civil rights leader."
From the company's website: American Apparel believes that sexuality should be celebrated, not condemned. When California voters passed Prop 8 in 2008, we let our community know we would support whatever stand they wanted to take. American Apparel believes in freedom, expression and equality, things that are inherently condemned in the prohibition of gay marriage. After printing a few hundred Legalize Gay t-shirts for a rally near our factory in downtown Los Angeles, the company received thousands of requests from people all over the world who asked for us to expand it. With many of our employees and customers identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, we are a company that is vocal about our support for the protection of gay rights. Scores of our employees were on the frontlines of protests in cities across America, handing out hundreds of Legalize Gay t-shirts to supporters, and putting them in our store windows in protest of violence against gays and discriminatory court decisions. We also had a lot of fun at PRIDE rallies and celebrations. We've since given away over 50,000 of these shirts, run protest advertisements nationwide and even partnered with HRC for their enormous march on Washington.
In 2008 the company donated $100,000 in an effort to help defeat California's Proposition 8. A message on Apple's "Hot News" site read in part: "Apple was among the first California companies to offer equal rights and benefits to our employees' same-sex partners, and we strongly believe that a person's fundamental rights -- including the right to marry -- should not be affected by their sexual orientation. Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8."
In 2008 Google came out against Prop 8 with the following statement on their official blog: "As an Internet company, Google is an active participant in policy debates surrounding information access, technology and energy. Because our company has a great diversity of people and opinions -- Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, all religions and no religion, straight and gay -- we do not generally take a position on issues outside of our field, especially not social issues. So when Proposition 8 appeared on the California ballot, it was an unlikely question for Google to take an official company position on. However, while there are many objections to this proposition -- further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text -- it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 -- we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love."
The home improvement super store drew the ire of anti-gay activists when it came out in support of gay rights -- including gay marriage. The American Family Association called for a boycott of the company in June, but Home Depot has remained committed to the cause. In October Home Depot spokesman Steve Holmes released a statement regarding the AFA boycott which read in part, "Our response on this has been and continues to be that we respect the diversity of all people and maintain an inclusive culture."
The department store recently came under fire from The American Family Association for releasing a catalog featuring an image of two grooms perched atop a wedding cake. Macy's responded to the AFA saying: "Macy's proudly serves a large and diverse marketplace, including customers with a wide range of needs and preferences. We strive to embrace customers of all ethnic backgrounds, ages, races, faith traditions, genders and lifestyles through the products we sell and the content of our marketing."
Earlier this year Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein asked viewers to join a "majority of Americans who support marriage equality" in a video for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group. "America's corporations learned long ago that equality is just good business and it's the right thing to do," Blankfein says in the new video.