This November, voters in Minnesota will be asked to decide whether the state Constitution should define marriage as being between one man and one woman. This amendment, if passed, would limit the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples in Minnesota. I urge you to join me in voting no.

I have lived in Minnesota for 65 of my 66 years. I have been graced by good fortune in starting and leading a high-profile, Minnesota-based business for 31 years -- the advertising agency named Fallon Worldwide. I steadfastly rejected the thought that imagination has geographic boundaries, and that we would have to be in New York City to compete on a national and international scale.

Likewise, I steadfastly refused to leave Minnesota, even in the early years when it might have made business sense to do so, because I love our state and its people. I am a proud Minnesotan and do not hesitate to tell anyone anywhere who is willing to listen.

From a business perspective, I've had the freedom to recruit the most talented creative people from around the globe and bring them to Minneapolis, where they could shock the world with their brains and ambitions.

We have hired our staff members without consideration of sexual orientation, and we've allowed them to flourish by creating a culture that encouraged them to be themselves. Our employees are accepted without reservation as long as they share a genetic drive for excellence.

Through the years, many of our best, most productive employees have been gays and lesbians -- not the 10 percent that is estimated within the general population, but at times upward of 30 percent of our employees have been gay or lesbian. Their sense of living in a "safe" community and being appreciated for the quality of their work is something I've considered a competitive advantage for Fallon.

More recently, however, I have come to believe that the acceptance of gays and lesbians in this community is a recruitment advantage for all of the advertising agencies, technology companies, retailers, designers and other companies whose success depends on creativity. It would be self-defeating for the state's economy to wave a "You're not welcome" sign in front of this potentially productive workforce by supporting this exclusionary amendment.

From a personal perspective, I see an opportunity for Minnesotans to lead the nation in equal rights and fairness by coming together and voting "no" on this punitive amendment. We would be the first state to defeat the narrow-mindedness behind this effort, and that would be good for all Minnesotans. This is the year 2012 -- we should wish all loving couples happiness and equal rights.

It's time to stop judging. It's time to be compassionate and understanding of others in such a troubling economic environment, where so many are hurting.

It's time to assert ourselves and not be swayed by special-interest groups, organizations and even something as powerful and sacred as the Catholic Church. It's time to celebrate choices made by thinking individuals and to treat each other with respect and compassion.

We make the world a better place by coming together and realizing that ideas we share make us stronger. But so do beliefs that, while different, are nonetheless held in the context of how people choose to lead their lives. The freedom to think and make personal decisions is a foundational concept of this great country and of our state in particular.

A significant part of our population in Minnesota is gay and lesbian. They are our sons and daughters, coworkers, friends, neighbors, relatives, teammates, union workers, business leaders, teachers, clergy, etc.

In November, we have a chance as Minnesotans to step out in front and demonstrate social leadership for the benefit of all. This is an opportunity to keep the government out of our bedrooms, where it doesn't belong.

We have a chance to make history simply by doing the right thing.


Pat Fallon is chairman of Fallon Worldwide.