A former Medtronic CEO, Bill George, is defending the right of homosexuals to marry ahead of a Minnesota ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to bar same-sex marriage.
"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 wrote in an op-ed for the Minnesota 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?"
George, who is now a Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author, urged Minnesota citizens to strike down the measure, arguing that the bill represents an affront to civil rights as well as an impediment to the state’s businesses.
"Passage of this amendment would make it increasingly difficult for Minnesota companies to recruit and retain the talented people required to build global companies," he wrote. "Not just gays, but anyone whose choice is to be part of an open society that rewards performance over social issues."
It’s not the 1st time that George has taken a stand opposing discrimination against the gay community. In his final years in the corner office at Medtronic, the company withheld charitable donations slated for the Boy Scouts of America when that group won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing them to prohibit gay men from becoming scout masters.
His decision caused "significant controversy inside the company," but "as a result, the local Boy Scout chapter amended its policies to be open to all leaders, and our community is better off for that," George wrote.
Likening the gay community’s struggles to the Civil Rights movement for black Americans, George urged more industry leaders to publicly speak out against the marriage amendment.
"In the late 1940s, African-Americans faced discrimination when Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey spoke in defense of racial freedom," he noted. "In retrospect, how would that era’s leaders have felt had they not opposed racial discrimination?"
"Our corporate leaders need to speak out forcefully against this amendment, because their companies have the most to lose if it passes," George wrote. "To date, only former CEOs Wheelock Whitney and Marilyn Carlson Nelson have done so, while other corporate leaders have been notably silent."