Former Medtronic CEO Speaks Out Against Marriage Amendment

Bill George argues that passage of the amendment would make it difficult for Minnesota companies to recruit and retain the talented people required to build global companies.

Former Medtronic CEO Bill George is urging local business leaders to speak out against the proposed amendment to Minnesota’s constitution that would ban same-sex marriage, saying that their companies stand to lose a great deal if it passes.

“Defeating this amendment is essential not only to provide civil rights, but also to ensure that Minnesota is open and welcoming to everyone—regardless of religion, gender, race, national origin, or sexual orientation,” George said in an opinion piece that appeared in the Star Tribune. “Would Medtronic’s new CEO, who is a Muslim born in Bangladesh, have left General Electric had he not believed that Minnesota was open to people with diverse life experiences?”

On the heels of North Carolina’s vote to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, President Obama earlier this month voiced support for same-sex marriage. In November, Minnesotans will vote on whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

George—who now serves as professor of management practice at Harvard Business School—points out that local companies like Target, General Mills, 3M, U.S. Bancorp, Best Buy, and Cargill must attract creative professionals from around the world. Passage of the amendment would make it difficult for Minnesota companies to recruit and retain the talented people required to build global companies—“not just gays, but anyone whose choice is to be part of an open society that rewards performance over social issues,” he says.

He notes that so far, few local business leaders have spoken out against the marriage amendment. CEOs Wheelock Whitney and Marilyn Carlson Nelson are among those who have, but most other top Minnesota executives have been “notably silent.”

It’s time for them to speak out “to ensure that Minnesota will continue to be one of the most progressive workplaces in the nation,” George argues.

To read his full editorial in the Star Tribune, click here.

Another businessman who recently spoke out against the marriage amendment is Vance Opperman, who sits on the boards of TCF Financial Corporation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He also co-owns a holding company under which Twin Cities Business' parent company, MSP Communications, operates—and he's MSP Communications' CEO.

“You do not create an innovative urban culture by being unwelcoming and actively discriminating against people based on their affectional preference,” Opperman wrote in his column in the April issue of Twin Cities Business.

To read more in that column about Opperman’s opinion, and how he arrived at it, click here.