I noted yesterday how Hampton, Virginia mayor Molly Ward has signed the Mayors for Marriage Equality Statement. Besides the fact that it's the right thing to do and is a step towards ending marriage discrimination, there's a practical side to signing onto marriage equality: more and more businesses do not want to locate to cities and states that discriminate. Thus, if a city wants to attract progressive and innovative business, supporting gay equality and non-discrimination protections makes sound economic sense. A story out of Jacksonville, Florida highlights this reality. A member of the board of directors of a sizable business looking to relocate to Jacksonville changed its mind when that city voted down non-discrimination protections for LGBT citizens. Bigotry carries a cost even if the bigots sometimes do not grasp that they are killing their own economic future. Here are highlights fro The Advocate:
It was in August when the Jacksonville City Council shot down an antidiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBT residents. Repercussions of that decision are now reverberating, as a local attorney says a major corporation refused to move to Jacksonville because of the measure's failure.
Marianna Smith is a lawyer and board member at an unidentified company. She writes in the The Florida Times-Union that the CEO of the company she serves on the board of refused to relocate to Jacksonville after the council rejected the ordinance (click here for a closer look at the measure's failure). The CEO was also affected by antigay letters and op-eds that appeared in local newspapers. Here's what Smith wrote:
"To build a business, you need more than just land; you need a favorable environment for employees.
I am a member of the board of directors of a rapidly growing, multi-million dollar international company. We employ chemists and engineers, marketers/sales staff plus a full manufacturing and distribution facility.
The company is located in a landlocked city and wishes to move to a city with a port, rail and truck service.
I have strongly advocated Jacksonville as our future business home. Unfortunately, the CEO came to evaluate Jacksonville when the letters and comments of hate were in our paper opposing the proposed changes to the Jacksonville anti-discrimination ordinance.
The CEO was shocked and said any determination about Jacksonville would not occur until after the bill was voted on by the City Council.
Jacksonville lost this company because of the results of the anti-discrimination bill vote.
I have served as a director on other international boards, and I can promise you that those companies would also decline Jacksonville as a headquarters home in view of the way our council and some citizens responded to a call for equal rights.