The leaders of General Mills Inc., one of the Minnesota’s largest companies, announced they are opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

“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 letter to employees and the public. “We value diversity. We value inclusion. We always have … and we always will.”

The lead group fighting the amendment praised the decision.

“The business case against this amendment is straightforward and powerful,” said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families. “General Mills’ decision to publicly oppose this hurtful, freedom-limiting amendment sends a clear message that neutrality on this amendment is simply not in Minnesota’s best interest.”

To reinforce the company’s decision, Minnesotans United also launched an online petition to thank General Mills for taking the position.

Charles said company CEO Ken Powell addressed 400 local gay and lesbian professionals Wednesday and announced the company would oppose the amendment, which will be on the November ballot.

“While General Mills doesn’t normally take positions on ballot measures, this is a business issue that impacts our employees,” Charles said. “I am proud to see our company join the ranks of local and national employers speaking out for inclusion.”

General Mills is one of the first large Minnesota-based companies to come out against the amendment. St. Jude Medical was the first large company to oppose the amendment.

The announcement already caused some backlash for General Mills.

“It is very disappointing that General Mills has decided to play PC politics by pandering to a small but powerful interest group that is bent on redefining marriage, the core institution of society,” said John Helmberger, chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, the group pushing the amendment.

“Marriage is in the interest of children, because it is society’s best way to help children experience the ideal environment where they are raised by their mother and father,” Helmberger said. “It’s ironic and regrettable that a corporation that makes billions marketing cereal to parents of children would take the position that marriage should be redefined.”

The National Organization for Marriage, a key group supporting the marriage amendment, sent letters to 50 of the state's largest companies urging them to remain neutral on the measure.

Charles acknowledged the company’s decision could stir opponents in what is an already intensely passionate and controversial issue.

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