Cathy Bessant, a Bank of America executive with a prominent reputation in Charlotte, said that a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina would harm businesses and economic development.
The Charlotte Business Journal reports on the comments from Bessant, the global technology and operations executive for the Charlotte-based bank, the nation’s second largest. Her division includes more employees than any other area in the bank.
In a video posted by the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, the group working to defeat Amendment One, Bessant said the ban would have a "disastrous effect on our ability to attract talent and retain talent." The former chair of the Charlotte Chamber specifically listed the technology, biotech and related fields critical to the region’s economy.
She did not mention her position with Bank of America, but her title and company were listed in the two-minute video. Bank officials told the Journal the company was not taking a position on the amendment either way, but that it “allowed and encouraged” employees to be involved in debate on “important public issues.”
Bessant called Amendment One "a direct challenge to our ability to compete nationally for jobs and economic growth,” adding that “large corporations hate this kind of controversy. They deal with diverse work force populations for whom issues like this aren't just important in terms of where it is they live, but are important indicators of the diversity and meritocracy of the companies where they want to work,” she said.
North Carolina metro areas including Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham have ranked among the nation’s most attractive places to live and work because of strong economies and low cost of living. Bessant argued that Amendment One could tarnish that image and contribute to the Tar Heel State losing "a war" for long-term economic development to other states. Similar concerns were echoed by business leaders in New York and Washington, where coalitions of executives pushed for passage of marriage equality laws in the past year. North Carolina remains the only Southern state without a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Voters will decide the fate of Amendment One on May 8, the day of the presidential primary in North Carolina. Polls within the past month show a wide range of attitudes. One survey last week found that 58% of voters supported the ban, while a poll from earlier this month showed that 54% of North Carolinians opposed Amendment One.