Editorial: Corporate courage

  • Updated: June 15, 2012 - 12:31 AM

General Mills joins St. Jude in opposing marriage amendment.

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General Mills corporate headquarters in Golden Valley.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Minnesotans who oppose the discriminatory constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage should welcome Thursday's news that General Mills Inc. is on the right side of the issue.

And any voter who might be undecided on the ban should take time to consider the economic case highlighted by the Golden Valley-based food company's decision to become the second Fortune 500 firm in the state to oppose the ban. Little Canada-based St. Jude Medical was the first.

"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," Ken Charles, vice president of global diversity and inclusion for General Mills, wrote in a blog post on the company's website. "We value diversity. We value inclusion. We always have ... and we always will."

CEO Ken Powell, who announced the company's stand Wednesday during a meeting with 400 local gay and lesbian professionals, has been a strong advocate for strategic efforts to ensure this region's 21st-century economic success. Powell and Carlson Companies CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who's also gone public with her opposition to the amendment, chaired the Itasca Project's Job Growth Task Force, whose report was released in 2010.

No doubt that work -- along with their own experience as leaders of multinational companies with large and diverse workforces -- reinforced for Powell and Nelson that valuing diversity is critical for Minnesota as it competes to retain and hire highly skilled workers in the decades ahead. Establishing discrimination in the state Constitution would severely damage this state's well-earned national reputation for openness.

Minnesota has a tradition of strong corporate leadership on critical social issues. We hope other major corporations will join General Mills and St. Jude Medical and work to defeat the marriage amendment this November.

A CLEAR CHOICE

"Obviously, there are strongly held views on both sides. We acknowledge those views, including those on religious grounds. We respect and defend the right of others to disagree. But we truly value diversity and inclusion -- and that makes our choice clear."

KEN CHARLES, vice president of global diversity and inclusion, General Mills Inc.
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