I'm paying attention to Amazon's search for its second headquarters from two perspectives. I'm a loyal Amazon customer, one of the 90 million Prime members, and I'm a gay man. While my relationship with the endless-shelf behemoth is 20 years old, the gay perspective from which I look at this story has been mine for most of my 54 years.
In its quest to find the ideal location, Amazon has made clear that cities competing to be the home of its new headquarters must offer economic incentives such as friendly taxes and prime real estate. But if the tech giant does not also prioritize LGBTQ rights as part of its search, Americans who care about equality should make it clear to Amazon that moving to a state where LGBTQ residents are treated as second-class citizens is unacceptable and will cost itself loyal customers like me.
In September, Amazon announced that it was scouting locations for expanding and opening a new headquarters outside of Seattle. The new home promises to be an enormous windfall for the winning city, which will come with a $5 billion investment from Amazon and an influx of up to 50,000 jobs. Unsurprisingly, more than 200 cities submitted bids in hopes of winning.
Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos (pictured), has long been a proponent of LGBTQ rights, having donated millions of dollars to support marriage equality in the company’s home state of Washington. But as he gears up to decide the future home for Amazon’s second headquarters, Bezos seems less committed to his role as a critical ally of the LGBT community and more interested in his company’s bottom line.
Amazon’s request for proposals includes a list of eight “decision drivers” that each city must address in its bid. At the top of the list are appeals for quality real estate, a business-friendly tax structure, and incentive programs. Bidders have taken these appeals to heart, with some offering free land and others proposing $7 billion in tax incentives.
It makes sense that Amazon, as a business, would prioritize the financial factors that are most likely to appease its shareholders over those listed at the very bottom of its Request for Proposals, such as cultural inclusivity and a livable community for its employees. But considering the company’s history as an LGBTQ-friendly organization, cultural inclusivity and a livable community should be a top priority.
Instead, Amazon should make clear that the winning bid will not be in a state that is considering or has passed anti-LGBTQ legislation, such as “religious freedom” bills that allow business to discriminate against people who go against their religious beliefs or “bathroom bills” that target transgender citizens.
These policies are clearly meant to strip rights from those in the LGBTQ community. And in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, religious conservatives in states around the country are emboldened to continue advancing hateful and discriminatory policies.
Unless Amazon rules out any state considering such a policy, those who support equality for all Americans should boycott the company.
No case is more troubling than that of Atlanta, which is primed to deliver on Amazon’s economic wishlist and is considered by many analysts as a favorite to win the bid. The city has reportedly offered major tax incentives and more than 120 acres in land, and it provides access to top-tier universities and one of the world’s busiest international airports. Unfortunately, Georgia is also likely to pass its own ant-gay religious freedom bill in 2018. The effort, led by political conservatives like state Sen. Josh McKoon, is clearly nothing more than a hate bill, giving license to discriminate.
Shareholders may certainly applaud if Amazon chooses Atlanta as its new home. But Americans who are committed to equality must send a loud message that they will not support Amazon if it elects to invest such substantial capital in a place supportive of hate. As we saw in North Carolina, supporters of LGBT equality do not remain silent in the face of discrimination.
MICHAEL ROGERS is a partner, managing director and vice chairman of Raw Story Media, Inc. publishing online The Raw Story, founder and director of Netroots Connect, an American fundraiser and a gay rights activist based in Washington D.C.