In a letter posted on Medium yesterday, a coalition of more than sixty-five LGBTQ activists, nonprofit leaders, and former government officials sent a letter to Amazon urging the company not to build its second headquarters in a state that lacks antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens—including North Carolina.
“As Amazon continues the evaluation of finalist locations for a new HQ2,” the letter reads, “nine of the states currently under consideration have failed to address a glaring deficit — the lack of comprehensive legal protections for the LGBTQ population.”
The Triangle’s bid was one of twenty that Amazon has deemed a finalist for the headquarters, which will bring an estimated fifty thousand good-paying jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth, as well as traffic nightmares and worsening gentrification. As part of Amazon’s selection process, local governments and the state are working out potential incentive packages, though they’re doing so behind closed doors, so it’s unclear exactly is on offer.
But it’s long been clear that North Carolina’s track record on civil rights could be problematic for the Triangle’s bid. Amazon bills itself as an inclusive, gay-friendly company; North Carolina was the state behind the notorious bathroom bill.
The coalition behind the letter, which has been operating under the banner No Gay, No Way since last month, points out that one of Amazon’s criteria for its selection is “Cultural Community Fit,” which “includes the presence and support of a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education, local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company, among other attributes.”
Thus, the group says, “Businesses large and small … are right to evaluate the treatment of LGBTQ citizens as they look to make investments across the country. As the author of The Rise of the Creative Class Richard Florida states, historically there has been a correlation between centers of innovation and high rates of economic growth, and a thriving gay and lesbian community. Simply put, LGBT people are a vital part of a diverse and modern workforce, and failing to protect them and their families is bad for business. The other states that you are considering for HQ2 know this and have passed, and are proud of, these protections.”
If Amazon heeds No Gay, No Way’s advice, that would eliminate Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia from contention, in addition to North Carolina. Amazon’s viable finalists would be Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles; Montgomery County, Maryland, Newark, New York City, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.
Raleigh has sought to differentiate itself from the state government by arguing that, while the General Assembly might be backward, it’s inclusive and diverse. But that, the coalition says, isn’t good enough.
“There are many individual cities that have taken positive steps,” the letter says, “but the lack of statewide protections means that employees and their families could lose the most basic protections on their evening commutes.
“Of course these states without basic protections say they welcome all of Amazon’s employees and the billions of dollars in accompanying economic investment. But talk is cheap. Amazon should demand that HQ2 states understand what a “cultural community fit” really means by fully protecting all LGBTQ workers, customers, and their families.
The letter’s signatories include blogger and political consultant John Aravosis, former Good Morning America weather anchor Sam Champion, comedian Kate Clinton, actor Alan Cumming, civil rights activist and author David Mixner, former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, actor Omar Sharif Jr., and Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson.