General Mills Opposes Marriage Amendment

A company executive said that General Mills doesn’t typically take positions on ballot measures, but “this is a business issue that impacts our employees.”

Golden Valley-based General Mills, Inc., has publicly opposed a proposed amendment to Minnesota’s constitution that would ban same-sex marriage—and it joins just a handful of local companies and executives in speaking out about the issue.

In a Thursday post on the company’s blog, Ken Charles—General Mills’ vice president of global diversity and inclusion—called the proposed amendment “an initiative that makes our state less inclusive and reduces our company’s ability to attract and retain talent.”

In November, Minnesotans will vote on the amendment, which would change the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Minnesota companies have mostly remained silent about the amendment. Until now, Little Canada-based St. Jude Medical, Inc., was the only large company to oppose it—and no major Minnesota corporations have gone on record to support it.

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

According to Charles, General Mills CEO Ken Powell on Wednesday addressed 400 local gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender professionals and announced that the company opposes the amendment.

Although Charles made clear that the company is firm in its stance, he also acknowledged that the marriage amendment is a controversial issue.

“Obviously, there are strongly held views on both sides,” Charles said. “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. General Mills’ mission is Nourishing Lives. Not just some. But all.”

The National Organization for Marriage—a major advocate for the marriage amendment—has sent letters to the state’s 50 largest companies and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, asking them to remain neutral on the marriage issue.

Although Target hasn’t taken a stand on the marriage amendment, it recently launched an online promotion that supports gay pride. Last month, the Minneapolis-based retailer began selling T-shirts with gay-friendly themes online—and it has pledged to donate the full purchase price of each one, up to $120,000, to the Family Equality Council.

A National Organization for Marriage executive on Thursday criticized the fact that Target is making the donation but “still has the nerve to say they are not taking a position on the marriage amendment itself” and argued that Target has taken a “patronizing and incoherent stance.”

Last month, shortly after President Obama voiced support for same-sex marriage, former Medtronic CEO Bill George urged local business leaders to speak out against the marriage amendment, saying that their companies stand to lose a great deal if it passes.

Local CEOs Marilyn Carlson Nelson, John Taft, and Wheelock Whitney have also publicly opposed the amendment—as has Vance Opperman, who sits on the boards of TCF Financial Corporation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Opperman co-owns a holding company under which Twin Cities Business’ parent company, MSP Communications, operates—and he’s MSP Communications’ CEO. To read his May column in Twin Cities Business, “’Til Constitution Do Us Part,” click here.

Food giant General Mills is among Minnesota's 10 largest public companies based on revenue. To read the company’s full blog post addressing the marriage amendment, click here.