General Mills' stand against a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage got both criticism and accolades from shareholders at the company's annual meeting on Monday.
The Golden Valley-based packaged foods giant has been the most prominent Minnesota corporate voice opposing the November ballot amendment, which would recognize marriage only as a union between a man and a woman.
"I really had a heavy heart and it saddened me that General Mills took a political stance on the amendment," one shareholder said during the meeting's question-and-answer period. "Whether for or against, I don't think politically you should have taken a stand on that."
Another shareholder at the Minneapolis Children's Theater asked, "What was the reason for the company to get involved when perhaps over 50 percent of your customer base will be offended? I just don't understand the rationale."
General Mills Chief Executive Ken Powell said the marriage amendment is a question of business, not politics. "We see it as a business issue that's not good for our state, our employees and our company. We did not do it as a public relations move."
The company, which made its position public in June, has said that "diversity and inclusion" are in the best interests of its employees and the Minnesota economy, and that the amendment champions neither.
Two other shareholders commended General Mills for its stance. One agreed that changing the state constitution over marriage rights is a business issue. Another said simply, "I would like to commend you for taking a stand on discrimination of any kind in the workplace."
A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll published Sunday showed 49 percent of those questioned in favor of the amendment and 47 percent opposed.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003